Losing is brutal. None of the succeeding words in this column change that. It stings. Burns. Makes your insides feel as if they’re at once set on fire and put on ice.

I won’t sleep much tonight. My brain will turn over play after play, too hyperactive to allow any semblance of rest.

All of those descriptions are why losing is also a privilege. It is a privilege to be pushed. To be put into a situation where your emotions can go high and low. It is a privilege to, yes, lose, sometimes.

“I judge you the unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune,” Seneca once wrote. “You have passed through life without an opponent – no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.”

And today, at the first AVP of the year, in Huntington Beach, I had the fortune, the privilege, of living through a bit of misfortune, of being pushed by an opponent in 18-year-old kid named Kacey Losik.

There’s a chance you haven’t yet heard of Losik yet. Which is fine. He’s 18. A year ago, he was qualifying for this very same tournament with Garrett Wilson, another Santa Cruz guy. Once in main draw, they were pushing the Mexican Olympic team to three sets.

Kacey was 17. Still in high school.

Over the past five months, I’ve been able to get to know Kacey a good deal better. We were both in the p1440 dev program. We won a tournament together. It’s a bit mind-blowing to me, often, that he’s only 18. He has an excellent mentality, phenomenal ball control, and has this hang…and hang…and hang…and snap the wrist atthelastsecond to tag a line style of offense that is as unique a style as I’ve seen.

He’s also just a damn good kid, which is far more meaningful than anything written above.

It’s not a salve for the wound that he played a good part in causing on Thursday afternoon. It’s actually kinda funny that I lost to a guy who rocked a SANDCAST sweatshirt to the beach – and then beat the Goddang host.

Funny world, beach volleyball.

And an oftentimes brutal one, too. As much as I like Kacey, I’d really prefer not to lose to him. Especially when Myles Muagututia, my excellent partner and good friend, and I played as well as we did on Thursday. Honestly. Today may have been some of the best volleyball we’ve played in the last six months.

And we lost. Because sports can suck sometimes.

We made maybe two or three errors on the day (unless you count a handful of serving errors, which I don’t). We sided out at one of the higher rates we ever have. We made scramble plays. We pulled off trick plays. We did everything we really wanted to do, for the most part.

And we lost.

We lost because Lev Priima, Kacey’s big Russian blocker, unloaded a fusillade of skud missiles from the service line, picking up ace after ace, pushing us out of system when we managed to get in the way of them. It was one of the most impressive serving matches of which I’ve had the misfortune of being a part.

We lost because Kacey didn’t let a few errors late in the third set shut him down. He gathered himself, sided out, sided out, made a few defensive plays, then jammed me with a nice spin serve up 14-12 to force an errant pass and another Priima bomb.

We lost despite scoring the exact same amount of points as Kacey and Lev. They just scored theirs in the manner that wins volleyball matches.

It doesn’t make it better or worse. It just is.

What does make things better, though, is that one of the better guys I know in volleyball – and I know a lot of excellent individuals in volleyball – made it through. It’s Kacey’s first main draw since Huntington a year ago.

I’d recommend you watch him play or, at the very least, keep an eye on him. He’s only 18, after all. Only, oh, 20 years away from his prime, in Hyden Years.

Plenty of time to experience both the brutality and beauty of sports, for without one, there really isn’t the other.