In three matches over the span of two days, Tri Bourne and Chaim Schalk played 290 total points of beach volleyball. They won 142 of those points.
They had no idea how valuable that 142nd point was. How valuable Bourne’s line swing around the block of Jonatan Hellvig would prove to be. It seemed innocuous enough at the time. Schalk and Bourne were down, 16-19, in the second set to Sweden’s Hellvig and David Ahman, having already dropped the first, 18-21. And, as far as the match itself would go, the point was of little consequence, as Ahman ripped an angle swing on the ensuing play and Bourne sprayed an angle wide after that, losing the second, 17-21.
But had that line swing not gone in? Had Bourne and Schalk not scored that 17th point? Their tournament, which began in Wednesday’s qualifier, could have been over, an upset win over Alex Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen wasted. Yet Bourne’s line swing had gone in, he and Schalk had scored that point, and over on center court, Meeuwsen and Brouwer fended off half a dozen set points against Brazil’s Pedro Solberg and Guto Carvalhaes to provide Bourne and Schalk the slimmest of margins they needed to win the tiebreak.
Yes, Pool B was quite the mess at the Uberlandia Elite 16. Entering Friday, all four teams — Bourne and Schalk, Brouwer and Meeuwsen, Pedro and Guto, Ahman and Hellvig — were 1-1. All but one match had gone the full three sets. The winners of the Netherlands vs. Brazil and Sweden vs. the U.S. would move on, while the losers would white-knuckle it over a tiebreak that comes down to a set and point differential ratio. Bourne and Schalk played 290 total points and had a .959 ratio. Guto and Pedro played 312 points and finished with a .937 ratio.
By the strawberry hairs on Bourne’s chinny chin chin did the Americans move on.
“I was like ‘Every point matters, bro! Let’s go!’” Schalk said weeks ago, after the Tepic Elite 16. In Mexico, Bourne and Schalk went 0-3 but very nearly went 3-0. He’s a numbers cruncher, Schalk. Knows the entry points inside and out just as he does point ratios to advance from pool.
“I got a thinker now,” Bourne said then, laughing. “I hired a thinker.”
Not that they would have played any different. The goal is always to win, and, when losing, to lose by as little as possible. But when a tiebreak comes down to…
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