Tri Bourne played the AVP Manhattan Beach Open on Friday, teaming with his childhood friend from Hawai’i, Trevor Crabb, to hit the sand for the first time in competition since September 2016.
“It means a lot to play in this event,” Bourne said. “First of all, it’s where I live, so for me, not to have to travel in my first event back is pretty big because the travel can take a toll on you. The last two times I played here, I was in the finals, so I still want my name on the pier. I know that we’re a long ways from that right now, but I just wanted to play in the event and it was a perfect opportunity to play with Trevor.”
Bourne nearly made the 2016 Olympics, thwarted by the country quota rule during qualification. He and partner John Hyden barnstormed around the world, playing nearly every FIVB event during the latter part of the FIVB qualification period, but were unable to catch Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson despite ranking inside the top 15 FIVB teams.
Then, early in 2017, Bourne was diagnosed with myositis, an autoimmune disorder causing inflammation of the muscles. His doctors urged him to essentially stop moving until his enzyme balances could be restored, and it was ultimately a stem cell treatment that restored his health.
So finally playing again was no small thing.
His last competition resulted in a bronze medal at the FIVB event in Toronto in September 2016. His fluidity and power have returned. Bourne and Crabb beat AVPNext qualifiers Chris Luers and Adam Minch (21-11, 21-15), but lost a subsequent match to Jeremy Casebeer and Reid Priddy (16-21, 20-22). They recovered to win the last match of the day over Andrew Dentler and Dylan Maarek (21-15, 25-23) and will play Mark Burik and Ian Satterfield on Saturday in the contenders bracket.
“It reminds me of our childhood days,” Crabb said. “It’s awesome. There are no real down moments, even when we’re losing. We can only go up from here, we’re just building on our chemistry. I’m stoked for the rest of our tournament.”
Bourne was inevitably peppered with serves at the beginning of each match and he met the challenge handsomely, hitting for a .679 percentage, causing teams to alter their early strategy and serve Crabb instead.
“Just be patient, you want all of your skills to be back right away,” Bourne said. “I know they’re not going to be. So be patient, and be happy with the skills that are coming around, and have fun.“
Playing three matches in a day is an unusual load these days, caused by the expanded 32-team draw that takes a toll on an in-season athlete, let alone one returning from a long layoff.
“The body feels interesting. Different. It feels like I haven’t played in a while,” Bourne said. “My legs feel great. Other little tweaky stuff, where you’re not used to the impact, but I think I’ll be all right. We’ll see.
“Flexibility is good, legs are good, strength is there, I think just the jarring on the body is something I haven’t had in a while, so it takes a little toll on the spine.”
Bourne spent much of 2017 as a commentator on the AVP live stream and does the podcast SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, where he spoke about coming back last week.
Bourne said he would give himself an A grade for his first day back.
“We’re playing pretty good ball on any given day. We’re both blockers, so obviously we need to tweak some things on defense, and be a little more patient. I mean, we’re ready. We could take on any team in the world right now.
“There’s no guarantees, but for sure we could take down anyone on any given day.”