AUSTIN, Texas — There’s something undeniably beautiful about watching a crowd full of wonderfully well-lubricated Texans chanting “512! 512! 512!” (the Austin area code) while an AVP volunteer runs laps around a beach volleyball court at 9:30 p.m., waving the iconic Texas flag as the local darlings of the AVP Austin Open qualifying tournament, Francisco Quesada-Paneque and Troy Schlicker, turned in one of the most impressive performances out of the 66-team beast of a qualifier.
A Texas group called the Sand Wannabes called it.
As soon as the preview for the qualifier went up, they messaged me, writing “Oh, and our local favorite Rafaa ‘The Cuban’ Quesada and Troy Schlicker are gonna surprise some teams Thursday!”
Heck. I didn’t know. I’d only been to Texas once, and that was when I drove from Florida to California and took a pit stop in El Paso, and all that pit stop did was assure me that I will never go back to El Paso.
It’s a long-winded way of saying that I didn’t even know there was a beach volleyball scene in Texas.
But there is, and The Cuban and Schlicker appear to run it.
Not one team took a set off of the local boys, who could not be any more different both in playing style and appearance. Rafaa looks like the Texan Adrian Carambula – smaller, stout, entirely unassuming — and plays similarly, with crafty shots, slick digs and deceptive athleticism. Schlicker appears carved out of granite, and hits like he is.
They only had one close game, a 22-20 second-set win in the third round, which was preceded by a 21-11 drubbing.
Four matches. Eight sets.
One main draw.
And good for them.
They beat a fine team from Seattle in Brian Miller and Brett Ryan — gotta love a guy with two first names — who had upset the second-seeded Dan Buehring and Matt McCarthy.
They did so in front of an excellent home crowd, in the final match of the night, under the lights, and in convincing fashion, 21-14, 21-18.
In a sport dominated by Californians, it was a breath of underdog fresh air to see a final round between the hometown favorites and a couple Seattle fellows playing in their first ever AVP.