A little more than a week ago, Tri Bourne was asked about a recent trend of late, how his game appears to reach new levels when he’s given an added sense of urgency. It was evident in the Tepic Elite16 in March, when he and Chaim Schalk were down, 12-13, in the third set in a qualifying match to Austrians Moritz Pristauz and Robin Seidl. It was then that Bourne took over the match, touching off a three-point run to win the match and qualify for the main draw.

It was evident weeks later in Itapema for a Challenge event. Down 12-7 in the third set of an elimination match to Poland’s Piotr Kantor and Maciej Rudol, Bourne again began operating on a different plane, igniting a 16-14 comeback victory. And it was evident twice more, just last week, after dropping the first set of the AVP New Orleans semifinals and finals to Tim Brewster and Kyle Friend, and Troy Field and Billy Allen, respectively. How’d those matches finish?

Bourne and Schalk won both.

And so it was, once more, that Bourne and Schalk again found a new level at the Uberlandia Elite16. Down 16-11 in the second set to Canadians Sam Schachter and Dan Dearing, a point at which most viewers would have justifiably switched courts on Volleyball TV, a third set sure to come, Bourne and Schalk worked their magic. They flipped the five-point deficit into a 21-19 second-set win to earn another main draw berth.

Phil [Dalhausser] knew he was the big dog for some time and now there’s a passing of the guard. Somebody has to be that guy now, and it’s not going to be easy. Someone’s got to do it,” Bourne said on SANDCAST this week, which aired, fittingly, on the same day as the qualifier. “Someone has to go to a different level. When I felt it at times, I needed to figure out how to replicate that. It’s a different willingness to go there. You have to not be yourself for a little bit. That’s the beauty of professional sport. Just going to a different place and competing at some different level. Trying to replicate that and seeing if I can bring it to the world tour.”

Tri Bourne-Uberlandia Elite 16
Tri Bourne gets a kill at the Uberlandia Elite 16/Volleyball World photo

He’s brought it, all right, as he and Schalk have now qualified for two main draws in two times trying in the Elite16s this season. Their day began with a 21-19, 21-18 win over the Netherlands’ Ruben Penninga and Leon Luini, a match in which Bourne tallied five blocks and even Schalk, the defender, tallied two of his own. That preceded their match with Schachter and Dearing, the 12 seeds who upset fifth-seeded Italians Daniele Lupo and Enrico Rossi, 25-23, 21-13, in the opening round.

After a 21-16 first-set win over the Canadians, it seemed destined to go to a third when Schachter and Dearing opened up that 16-11 lead, thanks to four blocks from Dearing, who finished the day with a tournament-leading 11 blocks in just four sets. That’s when Schalk and Bourne went to whatever that “different place” is that Bourne mentioned, finishing the match on a 10-3 run to close it.

“We know we’re always in it, no matter what the score is,” Bourne said. “But tonight’s comeback had some crazy rallies. It’s always fun when that happens.”

Tri Bourne-Uberlandia Elite 16
Tri Bourne celebrates a point at the Uberlandia Elite 16/Volleyball World photo

Boding especially well for Bourne and Schalk is the fact that they are the last American men’s team standing. Trevor Crabb and Theo Brunner dropped out prior to the qualifier, as did Miles Partain and Andy Benesh. Taylor Crabb and Taylor Sander, after getting into the tournament at the last minute, flew in and lost in the first round to Evandro Goncalves and Arthur Mariano, the gold medalists from the Saquarema Challenge two weeks ago. The remainder of the weekend, then, presents a massive opportunity for Bourne and Schalk to improve their Olympic standing and regain an edge over their American rivals.

“We just want to play against the best in the world and prove to ourselves that we are amongst the top teams,” Bourne said. “We’re not really concerned about the other teams’ results.”

They’ll begin pool play with Alex Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen of the Netherlands, the No. 2 ranked team in the world, at 7 a.m. Pacific. After a long break, they’ll have the nightcap match with Brazil wild cards Pedro Salgado and Guto Carvalhaes, whose brother, Marcus, is actually a training partner and assistant coach to Bourne and Schalk.

While Bourne and Schalk are the only U.S. men’s team left in the tournament, they are just one of five total Americans. Hailey Harward and Kelley Kolinske fell in the first round of the qualifier to Finland’s Taru Lahti and Niina Ahtiainen (21-17, 19-21, 12-15), but four women’s teams were seeded directly into the main draw. Thursday will feature the all-American battle between Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes and Sarah Sponcil and Terese Cannon at 8 a.m. Pacific.

Getting the early morning slot, at 4 a.m., Pacific, are Julia Scoles and Betsi Flint, who play German qualifiers Karla Borger and Sandra Ittlinger, and Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth, who have yet another date with world No. 1 Ana Patricia Silva and Duda Lisboa, their third match with the Brazilians this calendar year. The noon time slot features just the opposite, with Scoles and Flint matching up with Ana Patricia and Duda, and Nuss and Kloth with Germany.

“We’ll get some main draw wins,” Schalk said, “then we’ll hit you with some more quotes.”

Another guarantee from one of Bourne’s partners.

Chaim Schalk-Uberlandia Elite 16
Chaim Schalk gets a kill at the Uberlandia Elite 16/Volleyball World photo


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here