It wasn’t in the original plans, the madness that went down at the Volleyball World Rosarito Elite 16 on Wednesday.

The 18-21, 21-18, 15-13 thriller of a first-round match between Sweden’s David Ahman and Jonatan Helvig — more commonly and aptly known in beach volleyball circles as the Swedish Jump Setters — and Americans Chase Budinger and Troy Field.

The stunner of an upset from young Germans Robin Sowa and Lukas Pfretzschner over Australia’s new No. 1 team of Chris McHugh and Paul Burnett.

The diminutive Austrians, Robin Siedl and Philipp Waller, qualifying as the eight seed. Six white-knuckling sets from Sara Hughes and Kelley Kolinske, the final three of which — 24-26, 22-20, 17-15 — came over Brazil’s Taiana Lima and Hege Almeida dos Santos in the last round of Wednesday’s qualifier.

Austria’s Lena Maria Plesuitschnig and Katharina Schutzenhofer authoring a whopper of an upset over Brazil’s Elize Maia and Thamela Coradelli in the opening round.

None of that was supposed to happen in Elite 16 events, the top tier of the restructured Volleyball World system, the first of which is being competed in Rosarito, Mexico, this week.

Initially, there were no qualifiers for the top tier; it was, simply, the top 15 teams and a local wild card. And yet, because of a collective push from the International Beach Volleyball Players Association, a qualifier was added — and fans and organizers reaped the rewards of it.

Chaim Schalk wasn’t wrong when he told USA Volleyball that “this was the hardest, nastiest qualifier there’s ever been on the international tour. Four teams coming out of it, out of the top 28 in the world is ridiculously tough.”

Yet he and Theo Brunner did. They defeated Norway’s Hendrik Mol and Mathias Berntsen in a breezy first-round match, then swept Field and Budinger in the second to qualify for their first Elite 16 after being the only Americans in the Tlaxcala Challenger main draw a week ago. It leaves just Brunner and Schalk, and Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb, who were seeded directly into the main draw for Rosarito, as the final American men’s teams remaining.

The American women, of course, have no such shortage of teams.

Hughes and Kolinske, in their second tournament together as a team, engineered one of the more exciting days on Wednesday, needing a pair of comebacks over Japan and Brazil to qualify. But qualify they did, joining No. 3 seed Kelly Cheng and Betsi Flint, No. 7 Terese Cannon and Sarah Sponcil, and No. 10 April Ross and Emily Day in the main draw.

After sitting out of Tlaxcala a week ago, Rosarito will mark the much-anticipated debut of the recently married Kelly Cheng — formerly known, of course, as Kelly Claes — and Flint. They begin in Pool D, pitted against Tokyo Olympic bronze medalists Anouk Verge-Depre and Joana Heidrich of Switzerland, Fernanda Alves and Maria Antonelli of Brazil, and Talita Antunes and Rebecca Cavalcanti of Brazil.

Pool B, meanwhile, is an almost All-American affair, with Day and Ross, Cannon and Sponcil, and Hughes and Kolinske mixed in with a single international team, Nina Brunner — formerly Nina Betschart; like Cheng, she is also recently married — and Tanja Huberli.

Bourne and Crabb, who are the 10th seed in Rosarito, will meet Dutchmen Alex Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen first, followed by the new Italian team of Paolo Nicolai and Sam Cottafava, and Norway’s Anders Mol and Christian Sorum.

Schalk and Brunner, in Pool C, begin with Latvians Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins, and then will play Andre Loyola and George Wanderley of Brazil, and Tokyo Olympians Adrian Carambula and Enrico Rossi of Italy.

The format for the Elite 16s is different than your usual World Tour event. Gone is modified pool, replaced instead by the former round robin system, in which everyone plays everyone. Yet only two teams will make it out of pool, creating a single-elimination format beginning in the quarterfinals.

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Bartosz Losiak and Michal Bryl after winning the Tlaxcala Challenge/Volleyball World photo


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