HUNTINGTON, CA – When it came time to sign up for the first AVP tournament together, Miles Partain and Andy Benesh jumped at the opportunity.
Or rather, they jump at the opportunity.
Showcasing one of the world’s latest trends, Partain and Benesh used their jump tricks, false hit, false hit and several other beach volleyball permutations to capture Sunday’s AVP Pro Series Huntington Beach Open with a dazzling display.
It was more than enough to take the championship 20-22, 21-11, 15-12 over top seed Chaim Schalk and Tri Bourne at Huntington Beach Pier.
It may be hard to believe that a rookie can win a tournament, but these guys have 1,000 strokes now.
“I can believe it because Miles is a very special talent, we worked very hard during the off-season,” said Benesh, who is 6ft 9in tall. “But he just brings a new style to the beach. It’s really hard to deal with. I dealt with him last year and the year before and I know what it’s like.
The 21-year-old Partain can make blockers look silly with his jump kits. Benesh likes the system so much that he starts playing it himself.
“It’s great,” he said Partain, featured here last week. “He’s such a fun player to play with and our coach is amazing so it’s a real dream come true with an environment that has been with us so it’s amazing.
“Andy has learned a bit. He was already pretty good at it. The jump-setting stuff, he could do it before, but he never really tried much. He was able to deploy it in moments of high pressure, which is a testament to his skill.
It is an offensive system initiated by Poles Bartosz Łosiak and Piotr Kantor in the run-up to the Olympic Games in Rio 2016. Now it is a trend that has been launched into orbit by Swedish 21-year-olds David Ahman and Jonatan Hellvig.
Partain and Benesh, who have already won the FIVB Volleyball World Tour when they went undefeated to take part in the Dubai First Challenge 2022, are ready to hit the road again when they resume their schedule in Ostrava, Czech Republic in a week and a half.
After pushing Schalk and Bourne in the first set, Partain and Benesh changed their strategy in the second set, in defense and serving, with the top seeds noticing that mistakes were starting to creep in.
“I don’t think I handled it as well as I could personally,” said Schalk. “Their short serves were pretty good. That’s how it is sometimes; We didn’t play our best, but we kept fighting and we gave ourselves a chance to win the game, so I’m proud of that. There’s more to do and we’ll get that back.”
Fifth seed Partain and Benesh got off to a fast start in the third set, but Schalk and Bourne won 10-9. They just couldn’t catch them.
“The way I look at it, it’s great to be one point up instead of down,” said Benesh. “These games are always close, so it’s the decision-making and execution that makes the difference.”
“The mentality is just one point at a time and we try to keep that in our team and focus on the point at hand,” Partain added. “Especially as the game keeps getting later.”
It was a rematch of Saturday’s third round as Schalk and Bourne took a three-set victory after losing in the first.
Partain and Benesh shared the winner’s prize of $14,000, while Schalk and Bourne shared $8,500.
Schalk, the Rio 2016 Olympian from Canada with Ben Saxton, is now trying to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympics, representing the US from Bourne, who got a taste of the Tokyo 2021 Olympics when he replaced Taylor Crabb.
“It’s hard to adapt to, especially the Swedes, they jump like crazy,” said Schalk. “The system has a different style, a little more adventurous. When we beat them yesterday, it looked like they had a little trouble with it.
“It’s a younger style, it’s a new system, and it’s something we’re starting to explore more and more. The more times we play it, the better for us because we can just figure it out.
(Good timing according to VBM: Click here to read Travis Mewhirter’s article on Miles Partain from last week).