QINZHOU, China – It was less than 15 hours until the start of main draw at the FIVB three-star tournament, and Ryan Doherty had no idea where his partner was. Truth be told, Miles Evans also probably had little idea where he was.
As it can sometimes go on trips across the world, Evans’ flight to Qinzhou was delayed, which had him airport hopping, three in total, with no WiFi or ability to get in touch with Doherty or the FIVB to let them know that he would still be able to make it. The deadline to sign in and confirm that, yes, you are present at the site, had blown past. Doherty texted Evans, emailed him, asked the other Americans on site if they had heard from him.
No sign of him.
So Doherty began looking at early flights home. He even entertained the idea of sticking around to help out Mike Boag and me, should we have needed someone to pop in serves and coach a bit.
And then came the most relieving text message Doherty could have asked for, from the FIVB technical director: Evans was in a car and on the way.
They were still in the tournament. For that matter, they’re now in the final 16, but back to Evans showing up at the last minute. It certainly didn’t mean they’d play well, of course. A 20-plus hour trip is brutal on the human body, especially one that is expected to perform at one of the world’s highest levels in beach volleyball.
That aforementioned match that was less than 15 hours away? Against a relatively unknown Denmark team that had come out of the qualifier?
It went about as rough as Evans’ travels did, a 21-12, 22-20 loss to Kristoffer Abell and Martin Trans Hansen that put the Americans in a must-win situation the following day, against a home Chinese team.
“Miles and I had a setback when we ran into a good Denmark team that we had never seen before,” Doherty said. “So we just did our best to regroup and focus on playing our game today.”
They regrouped just fine. They settled in, beating Jie Li and Tingyang Yan of China 21-19, 21-19, in a match that Evans would evaluate as good not great, but good enough. Then they settled in some more, beating the 17th-seeded Czech Republic team of Vaclav Bercik and Jan Dumek, 21-18, 21-13.
“Ryan just blocked everything,” Evans said.
Doherty, of course, gave the credit back to Evans.
“Miles made a bunch of crazy digs that got us to the ninth-place match,” he said.
So now, after nearly forfeiting out of the tournament, they have a guaranteed top-10, the ninth such finish for Evans in 25 total FIVBs.
“Body feels good,” Doherty said. “I think I am through the bulk of the jet lag, so now the focus is just on recovery and getting some high-quality calories in, a surprisingly difficult task here in China, before we get back after it tomorrow morning.”
Editor’s note: Boag and Mewhirter, who won two matches to get into the main draw, went 0-2 in pool play. Their tournament ended Friday with a 22-20, 21-19 loss to Russia’s Maxim Sivolap and Artem Yarzutikin. Doherty and Evans will play Aliaksandr Dziadkou and Pavel Piatrushka of Belarus at 9 a.m. Saturday here, 5 p.m. Pacific Friday in America.
BVBinfo.com has all the results and schedule.