Wednesday, 7 June 2023

International Volleyball

Miles Partain, Andy Benesh win critical, high intensity NORCECA qualifier

Miles Partain-Andy Benesh

MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. — Somehow, Andy Benesh, in his sixth year as a professional beach volleyball player, has never played in a NORCECA, the entry level rung on the international volleyball ladder. Virtually every player in the United States system has played in at least one, while most have played several, and many have competed in far more than anybody would ever desire.

His six year streak will come to an end on June 7-9, in Punta Cana, for a World Championship qualifier. It was a bid he earned with Miles Partain, his dynamic and precocious and trailblazing partner, with three straight wins during Tuesday’s single-elimination qualifier, held at the Manhattan Beach Pier. Three sweeps, over Bill Kolinske and Hagen Smith, Kyle Friend and Tim Brewster, and Chase Budinger and Miles Evans, punched their tickets to the Dominican Republic, and by extension, a likely bid into the World Championships in October.

“Kind of like a Sunday at an AVP in the contender’s bracket, three matches,” Partain said. “It was legit. Qualifying is legit. It wasn’t a practice tournament. It was really cool.”

Andy Benesh and Miles Partain beat Chase Budinger and Miles Evans in the NORCECA World Championship qualifier/Travis Mewhirter photo

Indeed, it may be their coolest win of the season, despite the little-known nature of it. Tuesday was as Partain mentioned: As high quality as an AVP Sunday, a field that featured Partain and Benesh, Trevor Crabb and Theo Brunner, Budinger and Evans, Taylor Crabb and Taylor Sander, Cody Caldwell and Chase Frishman, Evan Cory and Logan Webber, Hagen Smith and Bill Kolinske — every top team save for Tri Bourne and Chaim Schalk, who chose not to play the event.

Why, you might be asking, wouldn’t Bourne and Schalk play?

World Championships is a massive event, with 48 teams competing, 24 of which are qualified via points. Teams use their best six finishes on the Beach Pro Tour in 2023 prior to the World Championships, which begin October 6 in Tlaxcala, Mexico. Of their four current finishes, Bourne and Schalk have three that will likely be used, and given those three finishes — 13th in the Tepic Elite16, fifth in the Itapema Challenge, fifth in the Uberlandia Elite16. They’re betting they’ll get into World Championships on points alone, without needing the NORCECA side door.

Given the trajectory of Benesh and Partain, who have a fifth and a fourth in Challenge events this season, they also are…

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