There is little about this week, a mostly sleepy pre-Thanksiving week in November, that suggests Olympic-qualifying beach volleyball. Even the site of the FIVB Chetumal four-star, the final event of the 2019 season, adds to the lax nature of November for beach players.
“Especially being in a nice warm laid back spot like Chetumal,” Trevor Crabb said. “Almost feels like a vacation.”
And yet there were eight American teams at work in Mexico on Thursday, just off the Yucatan Peninsula, Crabb and Tri Bourne being one of them. It has been an interesting few months for the two, who had one of the more intriguing seasons on the American side. In a somewhat mercurial year in terms of results, where the highs — fourth at World Championship — were high and the lows — failing to crack the top 10 in any other major — were low, Chetumal is the first tournament in nearly four months the two have been healthy and fully prepped.
“Tri finally is back to normal which obviously great,” Crabb said of his partner, who broke his hand at the Vienna Major at the end of July. “He played well today.”
It was a bit of a slow start for the two, as it was for many of the Americans, coming out with a come-from-behind 30-28 first-set win over China’s Peng Gao and Yang Li. The second set was smoother, more efficient, a 21-13 win that assured them advancing to the elimination phases, where they have won just two matches in the previous four tournaments.
“For me to begin with, it almost already feels like offseason,” Crabb said. “It has for a few weeks in terms of competitive juices. So I think that’s why we had a little slow start. It was nice to get that first one under our belts and back into competition mode.”
His brother, Taylor, and Jake Gibb had a similarly slow start, dropping the first set to Argentina’s Julian Azaad and Nico Capogrosso, who were seeded 13th in Wednesday’s qualifier, 22-24, before winning the next two, 21-19, 15-10.
But both Crabbs did, indeed, win, something the other two American men’s teams cannot claim. Both Stafford Slick and Billy Allen and John Hyden and Bill Kolinske lost in three sets, the former to France’s Quincy Aye and Arnaud Gauthier-Rat (21-18, 15-21, 10-15), the latter to Mexico’s Lombardo Ontiveros and Juan Virgen (16-21, 21-19, 13-15).
The slow starts, however, were largely reserved for the men. Three of the four women’s teams — Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat, Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil, Betsi Flint and Emily Day — will advance from pool, and the former two will have a first-round bye after winning both pool play matches.
Flint and Day nearly earned a bye as well. After beating Russia’s Ksenia Dabizha and Daria Rudykh 21-16, 21-15, they dropped a heartbreaker to Brazil’s Barbara Seixas and Fernanda Alves, 21-16, 18-21, 20-22.
The only women’s team not to break pool is the quickly-arranged all-USC partnership of Sara Hughes and Terese Cannon, who filled in for an injured Summer Ross. After breaking through Wednesday’s qualifier for Cannon’s third FIVB main draw, they lost both on Thursday, to China’s Fan Wang and Xinyi Xia (16-21, 17-21) and Spain’s Angela Lobato and Amaranta Navarro (19-21, 9-21).