MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. — Had you been at the Manhattan Beach Pier on Thursday afternoon, you’d have witnessed the strangest of sights, and heard the strangest of sounds: Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb were out of words.
Bourne and Crabb, the loudest talkers and the brashest of ballers on the AVP Tour, had just watched their names get cemented into the Manhattan Beach Pier, the annual tradition celebrating the victors of the previous year’s tournament, and they were — can you believe it? — silent.
“It’s really emotional,” Bourne said. “It’s a big deal to not only play on this beach but get our names on the pier.”
“This tournament means everything,” Crabb added.
Of course, with the pier ceremony three days prior, Crabb reverted to his usual self in the post-match interview, confirming for the crowd “that’s three in a row, right? OK,” he said with a laugh. “It’s the one that everyone wants to win. There’s nothing else like it on the AVP or the world. We’ve had an up and down year. After Florida we got our groove back and coming back here all we wanted was to do it again.”
As Crabb alluded, it’s been a strange year for the two.
In six international tournaments, they have yet to make a quarterfinal. In June, they saw their World Championship run come to an end due to COVID. In their first event after that, they were stunned by 16th-seeded Jake Dietrich and Hagen Smith in the opening round of AVP Hermosa Beach. But he’s not one to remain idle, Crabb. Why wait for the sense of urgency to kick in — or maybe it won’t — when you can just create it yourself?
Why not just guarantee a victory in the next AVP tournament?
“It’s just that feeling when you know you’re going to win,” Crabb said after he and Bourne did, incredibly, win AVP Fort Lauderdale at the end of July, without so much as dropping a set.
There was no guarantee in Manhattan. Those may be forever in the rear-view, after his last one, a spur-of-the-moment, adrenaline-fueled guarantee in the immediate moments following their victory in Fort Lauderdale, went terribly awry, as a promised win in Atlanta devolved into a ninth-place dud.
But perhaps it’s a good sign, then, that this team needs no more external manufacturing of a sense of urgency to create the type of sensational play that led them to six straight wins in Manhattan Beach.
“We stuck together as a team,” Bourne said. “We had to block out a lot of distractions but we did it. That’s the ultimate challenge and we pulled it off.”
They did so by knocking off their top two rivals on the AVP in Taylor Crabb and Taylor Sander, and Schalk and Brunner. Any match involving two of those three teams is a made-for-TV drama, as yellow cards are routinely dished, trash talk is caught on the mics, and the volleyball is raised to new levels. Simply put, they bring out the best in one another. It’s possible that Bourne and Crabb played the best match of their entire partnership in the finals against Schalk and Brunner, which was a rematch of the finals in Fort Lauderdale where, again, Schalk and Brunner demanded the best of Bourne and Crabb.
Now they are the clear No. 1 team on the AVP Tour, the only one with multiple victories to their names. Which means, of course, that they must now compete against one another, only as close friends who grew up with one another do.
“I just don’t like Trevor having more plaques than me,” Bourne said. “I don’t know how to get around it, so we’ll just have to keep going.”
Thursday is long gone. The Hawai’ians have their swagger — and their mouths — back in full.
“Hey Phil,” Crabb said, referencing Dalhausser and his seven Manhattan Beach Open victories. “I’m coming for you.”