HERMOSA BEACH — It took Abril Bustamante precisely one minute to respond to a text message from Sara Hughes asking if she wanted to play in the 2019 AVP Hermosa Beach Open.

“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, duh,’” Bustamante recalled after qualifying for the main draw alongside Hughes. “Of course, I’ll be there. When and where. Yes.’ ”

Hughes, who boasts two third-place finishes already on the AVP tour this season, had not planned on playing Hermosa at all. She and her international partner Summer Ross were chasing Olympic qualification points and were registered for the FIVB Four Star in Tokyo this week.

But the pair pulled out last minute with Ross dealing with an injury. They’ve also withdrawn from the four-star FIVB Moscow August 13-18.

So finding herself at home in Southern California, instead of in Tokyo, Hughes called up her former USC beach volleyball teammate Bustamante to propose the pairing. With 1930 AVP points to her name, Hughes and Bustamante could have been in the main draw, even though the younger player has a grand total of zero points, but due to their late signup, they got stuck in the qualifier.

“Everyone is like, ‘You’re in the qualifier, what the heck,’” Hughes said. “I could care less. It was so much fun for us to get some matches in together as a team, and I mean there’s so many good qualifier teams out here, but honestly I had the best time.

“I’ve been in the main draw for so long, but I’ve never been so excited to get into the main draw right now because we just earned it together with two practices and we’re so excited for tomorrow.”

AVP Hermosa 2019 July 25-Abril Bustamante
Abril Bustamante dives for a dig in AVP Hermosa qualifier play/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

Once she got the call, Bustamante, who joined USC’s indoor team for her fifth year of eligibility after playing four seasons of beach for the Trojans, dropped everything to train with Hughes and play in Hermosa Beach.

“I told my coach and my team, ‘I’m not going to be there this week,’” Bustamante said.

Hughes and Bustamante are both defenders, but split-blocked on Thursday, you’d have to say quite successfully as they didn’t lose a set and defeated their third opponents, Cecilia Agraz and Agnieszka Pregowska 21-10, 21-19 to earn a spot in the main draw.

In addition to No. 1-seeded Hughes and Bustamante, Thursday’s qualifiers are:

No. 25 Iya Lindahl and Morgan Martin
No. 5 Mackenzie Ponnet and Sheila Shaw
No. 13 Kathryn Hogan and Megan Rice
No. 3 Traci Callahan and Carly Wopat
No. 11 Lauren DeTurk and Sasha Karelov
No. 10 Audrey Nourse and Nicole Nourse
No. 47 Crissy Jones and Susannah Muno

Click here for complete women’s match results from the qualifier.

AVP Hermosa 2019 July 25-Christian Honer
Christian Honer qualified for his third AVP main draw in Hermosa Beach Thursday/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

Two months ago at the Austin stop of the AVP, Christian Honer lost in the first round of the qualifier, a very disappointing finish after qualifying and winning a match in the main draw to finish 13th a week before in Huntington.

Honer and his then-partner Logan Webber parted ways after Austin, and Honer, 24, thought maybe the volleyball thing just wasn’t in the cards this summer, so he packed up, moved out of the place he was subletting in LA and returned to his home state of Arizona after being discouraged and unable to find a blocker to partner with.

He even posted on social media on June 13 that he was ready to give up the game, saying “…it’s time to set it down and see what happens.”

But then he connected with Brian Miller, a 25-year-old, 6-foot-8 blocker from Mercer Island, Washington, who recently moved to San Diego, Honer is back in the game.

The partnership has its challenges, namely that having moved back to Arizona, Honer has to fly to San Diego for the duo to train together, but they estimate they were able to get in 15 to 20 practices ahead of Hermosa.

“We played against each other a lot actually,” Honer said. “I’ve been wanting to play with this guy for a long time, and the opportunity opened up after Seattle and I’m really excited to be able to train down in San Diego with some good players. It’s been freaking awesome, it’s been so much fun. This dude is a stud on and off the court.”

In their third tournament together, but first AVP qualifier (Miller played with Jon Ferrari in Huntington and Austin and Kacey Losik in Seattle), Honer and Miller cracked the main draw, marking the third trip to the dance for Honer and fourth for Miller. They made it in with a defeat of teenage brothers Miles and Marcus Partain, who made waves in Hermosa two years ago qualifying for the main draw at age 15 and 17.

“Eat a bunch of food and sleep hard and get ready for whoever we have tomorrow,” Honer said when asked what he and Miller would do to prepare for the main draw. “Put on our smiling faces and hope that we have a lot of people on our side, and yeah, make some moves and do some damage so that we can make ourselves a main draw staple in the AVP because I feel like we can do it. So one game at a time, one point at a time, one rep at a time.”

The complete list of men’s qualifier teams that made the main draw is:

No. 16 Earl Schultz and Jake Urrutia
No. 8 Christian Honer and Brian Miller
No. 28 Wyatt Harrison and Kacey Losik
No. 13 Dylan Maarek and Dave Palm
No. 14 Andy Benesh and Adam Roberts
No. 22 Garrett Roberts and Garrett Wessberg
No. 7 David Vander Meer and Logan Webber
No. 15 Jake Rosener and Christopher Vaughan

Click here for full men’s results on BVBinfo.

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