Cue the most common joke on the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour: “We went all the way to Portugal…”

Wait for it.

“ … just to play a match we could have played in Hermosa Beach.”

Such is the comical gripe that could have been said — and probably was said, or will be mentioned on social media — by Evan Cory and Bill Kolinske, and Taylor Crabb and Taylor Sander on Thursday afternoon in Espinho, Portugal. Nearly 6,000 miles did they travel for the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Challenger event — just to wind up playing one another in the final round of the qualifier, where Crabb and Sander were the top seeds and Cory and Kolinske the 16.

It almost didn’t happen, too, that matchup. Kolinske and Cory won a narrow first-round match against Lithuania’s Robert Juchnevic and Artur Vasiljev, 21-14, 15-21, 15-11, to earn the matchup with Crabb and Sander, who were coming off a second-place finish at the AVP Hermosa Beach Pro Series and earned a bye via virtue of being the one seed.

They wasted little time in proving why they were the one, sweeping Cory and Kolinske, 21-17, 21-16, to make the main draw, their second of the season, and their first main draw via qualifier. Their only previous experience in an international qualifier came in March, in Tlaxcala, Mexico, for the season-opening event, in which they had one of the most brutal draws in an event full of them, seeing Latvians Edgars Tocs and Kristians Fokerots in the first round, then Brazil’s Bruno Schmidt and Saymon Barbosa in the second. Espinho provided no such gauntlet, as many of the top teams are either resting or sitting on a golden pile of World Championship points, diluting the event, which should be one of the more intriguing for viewers this weekend, as parity abounds.

Such parity could be found in the route of Miles Evans and Andy Benesh. Two matches did they play on Thursday, and two matches did they go the full three sets. They opened with Spain’s Rene Giralt and Alejandro Huerta, dropping the first set, 16-21, before rebounding to win the next two, 21-15, 15-11. In the second round, against Switzerland’s No. 3 team, Adrian Heidrich and Leo Dillier, again they dropped the first, 21-23, before rebounding to win the second and third, 23-21, 15-12. Espinho marks the second international main draw of the year for the two; they previously won a silver medal in a Futures event in Songkla, Thailand.

Who did they draw for their first match of the main draw? Americans Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb.

Cue the jokes, once more.

Corinne Quiggle-Gstaad Elite 16
Corinne Quiggle dives to make a play at the Gstaad Elite 16/Volleyball World photo

The only American women’s team in Thursday’s qualifier, Jade Race and Tiffany Creamer, fell in the first round to Poland’s Katarzyna Kociolek and Marta Lodej, 21-12, 21-8. Three American teams, however, are directly into the main draw: Emily Day and Savvy Simo, Corinne Quiggle and Sarah Schermerhorn, and Megan Kraft and Emily Stockman. Day and Simo, and Quiggle and Schermerhorn are both in Pool A, while Kraft and Stockman are the second-ranked team in Pool D, behind Brazil’s Hegeile Almeida and Taina Lima.

Who do Quiggle and Schermerhorn begin their main draw against? Day and Simo.

Jokes abound.

Taylor Crabb and Sander, meanwhile, open up with Switzerland’s No. 1 duo of Florian Breer and Marco Krattiger in Pool C, where they are also joined by Poland’s Bartosz Losiak and Michal Bryl,and Poland’s Pawel Lewandowski and Jakub Zdybek. Rounding out Bourne and Trevor Crabb’s pool is Poland’s Piotr Kantor and Maciej Rudol, and Switzerland’s Yves Haussener and Quentin Metral.

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