Friday, 22 September 2023

International Volleyball

Miles Evans, Chase Budinger peaking at the perfect time

Miles Evans, Chase Budinger peaking at the perfect time

It is with perfect, nearly Hollywood, timing, that Miles Evans and Chase Budinger are playing the best beach volleyball of their nascent partnership. To some, this weekend’s Volleyball World Elite16 event in Montreal, Canada, is just that: A high level tournament in the middle of a lengthy season spanning from February-December and criss-crossing the globe. For Evans and Budinger, and a number of other teams in the field, it’s the last gasp at qualifying for the World Championships, which will be held this fall in Mexico.

Had they lost either of their qualifying matches on Wednesday, their World Championships hopes would have been dashed. Had they failed to break pool in the main draw, their World Championships hopes would have been dashed. Neither of these feats are easy. Yet Wednesday came and went, and Evans and Budinger played perhaps their best of the season.

On Thursday, they took it a step further, notching pool play wins over Esteban and Marco Grimalt (21-12, 23-25, 15-10) and France’s Youssef Krou and Arnaud Gauthier-Rat (15-21, 21-18, 15-10). The pair of wins guarantees them, at the minimum, a ninth-place finish and 600 team points, their second-best finish of the season, behind only their silver medal at the Saquarema Challenge this past April.

“Happy to be taking advantage of our last opportunity to potentially qualify for World Champs,” Evans said after the wins on Thursday. “It’s nice to be able to show the level we can compete at in this tournament.”

The window for World Championships qualification closes after the Hamburg Elite16 in August, an event that conflicts with the AVP Manhattan Beach Open, and one that Evans and Budinger likely won’t have the entry points to even get into the qualifier. Which makes this their last push for enough points to make the cut.

They have one pool play match remaining, against Norway’s Anders Mol and Christian Sorum, who were also 2-0 on the day. A win will earn Budinger and Evans a first-round bye in the playoffs and a minimum of a fifth-place finish, which would be good for 760 points as a team. The Norwegians have been stumped twice in a row by an American duo, losing to Miles Partain and Andy Benesh twice in the Gstaad Elite16. Budinger has never played Norway, and Evans only has once, in the p1440 San Jose event with Bill Kolinske, where Norway won 21-14, 21-15.

“Feels great to put together two straight days of high level volley,” Budinger said….

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