On Monday morning, Tri Bourne released a behind-the-scenes vlog on the SANDCAST YouTube page in which he pulled a move that was more befitting his former partner, Trevor Crabb: He guaranteed something that is, to put it lightly, a smidge difficult to guarantee.

“Men’s U.S. teams as a whole are all going to be better this year,” he said. “I guarantee that. Don’t worry U.S. fans, we got you.”

This came, of course, just days after Bourne and Chaim Schalk’s debut as a new duo fell flat, with back-to-back losses in the La Paz Challenge, while Trevor Crabb and Theo Brunner finished fifth. The guarantee did not, as one rankled viewer suggested, age well.

Until Wednesday evening, anyway.

Both Bourne and Schalk and Brunner and Crabb advanced from the Volleyball World Tepic Elite 16 qualifier in Mexico, both needing second- and third-set comebacks in the final round to punch their tickets into the main draw.

“It was a gnarly day. It’s kinda crazy how insane qualifiers are these days,” Bourne said. “They’ve always been gnarly but now they’re insanely intense.”

Tri Bourne-Chaim Schalk-Tepic Elite 16
Tri Bourne sets to Chaim Schalk at the Tepic Elite 16/Volleyball World photo

They are qualifiers only in name. Six of the eight semifinalists from last year’s World Championships were relegated to Wednesday’s qualifier, and only Brunner and Schalk made it through to the main draw. Brazilians Renato Lima and Vitor Felipe, the silver medalists in Rome, fell to Stefan Boermans and Yorick de Groot, while bronze medalists George Wanderley and Andre Loyola were knocked out by Brunner and Crabb. (Anders Mol and Christian Sorum, who won the World Championships, are directly into the main draw and the No. 1 seed at the Tepic Elite 16)

“There are no good draws in the main draw now. Now there’s no good draws in the qualifiers,” Bourne said. “We’re stoked to get through it.”

Bourne and Schalk’s road included victories over Austria’s top two teams. They swept Philipp Waller and Martin Ermacora (21-17, 21-15) before a three-set thriller with top-seeded Moritz Pristauz and Robin Seidl (16-21, 21-19, 15-13), who were coming off a bronze medal at the La Paz Challenge. Their win required a comeback from down 12-13 in the third set, with Schalk making a clutch dig on a magnificent Pristauz swing and Bourne sealing it with a match-winning block.

“Stoked to qualify, obviously,” Schalk said. “Good bounce back for us from the first tournament.”

It’s a good bounce back for the American men as a whole. Wednesday marked the first time in the Beach Pro Tour era that the U.S. has had multiple teams make it through an Elite 16 qualifier. The last Elite 16 that featured two American men’s teams in the main draw was Ostrava in May of 2022, where Bourne and Crabb finished ninth and Schalk and Brunner 13th.

“Keep hearing some of the U.S. fans chirping, saying something on the men,” Bourne said. “We gotta go perform now.”

Trevor Crabb-Theo Brunner-Tepic Elite 16
Trevor Crabb hits a line shot over Dan Dearing at the Tepic Elite 16/Volleyball World photo

Indeed, the road only gets more difficult from here. Bourne and Schalk will join a pool that boasts Sweden’s Jonatan Hellvig and David Ahman, the Czech Republic’s Ondrej Perusic and David Schweiner, and Germany’s Clemens Wickler and Nils Ehlers. In Pool C, Brunner and Crabb will meet Alex Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen of the Netherlands, Doha Elite 16 bronze medalists Adrian Carambula and Alex Ranghieri, and the most recent Kings of the Court, Kusti Nolvak and Mart Tiisaar.

“We’re just getting better every game here,” Schalk said. “Looking forward for the main. That’s why we’re here. We’re fired up.”

Per usual, the main draw is filled to its proverbial brim with American women, four teams in total in Tepic. Julia Scoles and Betsi Flint join Terese Cannon and Sarah Sponcil in Pool C, while Pool D features both Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes and Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth.

Nuss and Kloth, coming off a gold medal at the La Paz Challenge, their third victory on the Beach Pro Tour, were the only American women to emerge from Wednesday’s qualifier, sweeping both Mexico (21-19, 21-14) and Japan (21-13, 21-13) in a relatively stress-free day. Kelley Kolinske and Hailey Harward were eliminated in the first round by Brazil’s Hegeile Almeida and Taiana Lima (19-21, 21-14, 15-11), and Emily Stockman and Megan Kraft fell in the second round to Italy’s Valentina Gottardi and Marta Menegatti (24-22, 21-18).

Matches begin at 9 a.m. Pacific, although the first Americans to play will be Bourne and Schalk at 11:30 against Perusic and Schweiner.

For the full schedule and results, head to Volleyball World. 

Kristen Nuss-Taryn Kloth-Tepic Elite 16
Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth with a signature celebration at the Tepic Elite 16/Volleyball World photo


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here