Trevor Crabb attacks in Brasilia/Volleyball World photo

It was a simple itinerary. Nothing more than, oh, to use Theo Brunner’s wild ride as an example, Xiamen to Hong Kong to Los Angeles to Chicago to Sao Paulo to Brasilia for this week’s Brasilia Elite16.

Fifty hours in total.

More if you include Trevor Crabb’s overnight in Singapore, which preceded stops in San Francisco, Houston, Sao Paolo and Brasilia.

That’s all.

And maybe even more for Brunner. His plane from Xiamen sat on the runway for five hours and he blew through his connection. His layover in Los Angeles went from brief to three-minutes-with-the-wife-as-she-drives-me-to-terminal-seven brief.

No matter.

Grab a coconut, throw in one of those cool straws that make you look like you’re on your honeymoon, mainline the electrolytes, remember what the sun looks like, how fresh air tastes, what life without ankles double their size and ubiquitous screens and blue light everywhere and pressurized cabins and flight attendants resembles.

And then, on barely 24 hours off a plane, go play the highest level beach volleyball there is in the world.

Easy peasy.

Such was the task placed on 19 teams at this week’s Brasilia Elite16, all of whom found their way from China to Brazil in all manner of roues. Struggles bond folks. And few will be bound more than the 38 individuals courageous or crazy enough to hop on a flight from China to Brazil and attempt to play world class beach volleyball.

Some even managed to do that.

Brunner and Trevor Crabb looked hardly any worse for the wear during Wednesday’s qualifier, even if Crabb “spent an hour or three,” as he said, contemplating retirement while in the San Francisco airport. For now, he’s glad he didn’t.

Twice he and Brunner matched up with a Brazilian team in the qualifier, and twice they swept, beating Gabriel Dos Reis and Pedro Sousa (21-14, 21-18) and Arthur da Silva and Adrielson Dos Santos (21-19, 23-21).

“Couple two-setters for once,” Brunner said. He has himself to thank for that. Down 16-18 in the second set, Brunner scored four straight points, siding out and blocking the following three. Their lead at 19-18 was their first of the set, and one they wouldn’t relinquish, eventually sealed with a Crabb ace down the seam.

They were the only American team in the qualifier, and now they are one of five total in the weekend’s main draw. Brunner and Crabb will join Andy Benesh and Miles Partain, and Chase Budinger and Miles Evans. Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes, and Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth, seeded two and three, respectively, were also straight into the main draw.

Zoe Verge-Depre, Esmee Bobner land critical qualifying victory

The most captivating storyline in the race to the Paris Olympics is that of the tug-of-war between Zoe Verge-Depre and Esmee Bobner, and older sister Anouk Verge-Depre and Joana Mader for the final Swiss spot. Anouk and Mader were coming off a silver medal at last weekend’s Xiamen Challenge, retaking the lead they had relinquished when Zoe and Bobner won gold in Guadalajara. As it has gone all year, the script again flipped in Brasilia, with Zoe and Bobner making it out of the qualifier and Anouk and Mader falling in the second round. A ninth or better will give Zoe and Bobner the lead once more.

Karla Borger, Sandra Ittlinger stay hot, advancing to the Brasilia Elite16 main draw

The team who may be having the finest 2024 season of them all, Germans Karla Borger and Sandra Ittlinger, continued their excellent play on Wednesday, winning both qualifier matches to advance into the main draw. After winning gold in Xiamen, Germany’s No. 3 team currently sits just behind Laura Ludwig and Louisa Lippmann, who were seeded directly into the main draw.

Canadian women bounced early from Brasilia Elite16

Both Sophie Bukovec and Heather Bansley and Sarah Pavan and Molly McBain lost in the first round of the qualifier on Wednesday. If there’s good news for Pavan and McBain, it’s that Spain’s Lili Fernandez and Paula Soria, the team directly on their heels in the Paris Olympic rankings, fell in the first round, too, making it mostly a wash of a qualifier day.

Chilean men shine in qualifier

Both of Chile’s teams, Noe Aravena and Vicente Droguett, and Marco Grimalt and Esteban Grimalt, advanced from Wednesday’s qualifier and into the main draw. The Grimalts are peaking at an ideal time, winning a gold medal at the Xiamen Challenge, now extending their weekend in Brasilia as they make a late and heroic push up the Olympic rankings.

USA Thursday playing schedule

all times Eastern
3 a.m.: Kristen Nuss, Taryn Kloth vs. Laura Ludwig, Louisa Lippmann (Germany)
4 a.m.: Miles Partain, Andy Benesh vs. George Wanderley, Andre Loyola (Brazil)
5 a.m.: Trevor Crabb, Theo Brunner vs. Michal Bryl, Bartosz Losiak (Poland)
6 a.m.: Kelly Cheng, Sara Hughes vs. Nina Brunner, Tanja Huberli (Switzerland)
9 a.m.: Chase Budinger, Miles Evans vs. Stefan Boermans, Yorick de Groot (Netherlands)
11 a.m..: Kristen Nuss, Taryn Kloth vs. Carol, Barbara (Brazil)
Noon: Andy Benesh, Miles Partain vs. Steven van de Velde, Matthew Immers (Netherlands)
1 p.m.: Trevor Crabb, Theo Brunner vs. Javier Bello, Joaquin Bello (England)

Theo Brunner blocks in Brasiia/Volleyball World photo


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