It’s a bizarre sort of feeling, one every athlete has had to wrestle with at some point in his or her career: Knowing that you played better in one tournament, but finished better in another.

That is, in a nutshell, AVP Seattle for me.

Everything I had worked on prior to Seattle – blocking, peel digging, getting my platform out early on the pass, serving tougher, swinging high and deep rather than hero-balling it – was significantly, noticeably improved. I played better in Seattle than I did in Austin.

In Austin I finished thirteenth.

In AVP Seattle, I took a 21st and won’t have a main draw appearance to show for it.

Such is the nature of sports, and process over results.

But the process is working.

That’s the first thing I told my buddy, Kevin Villela, after I lost. I’m not sure whether I was trying to convince him or myself, tell you the truth. Because, trouble is, the results didn’t show that the process was doing its thing. The results showed a third round knockout at the hands of Ian Satterfield and David Ryan Vander Meer. We didn’t even go to three.

So, to be clear, the simple fact that I played better volleyball than I did in Austin and New York does not mean I played perfect volleyball. Not even close. I still committed my fair share of stupid errors, still made decisions I can only describe as moronic, still hit shots I’d like to have back, still turned on my block too early, still missed my partner, Gabe Ospina, in transition, too much.

Still have plays that make me stay up a few minutes later than I’d like as they replay and replay and replay, that masochistic film playing over and over and over again.

So yes, there is still much more I could have done to win that match, and had I not hit a few careless options at the tail end of the first set of our match against Satterfield and Vander Meer, there’s a good chance we’d have been in the final round, playing Raffe Paulis and Marty Lorenz.

Indeed: Improved volleyball is not perfect volleyball. That’s the point. There’s always something more to work on, something to shore up before the next stop, in AVP San Francisco, something to strive for.

Because it’s working.

Maybe it’s not as visible as I’d like it to be, with a lower number next to my finish. But those will come if the work goes first.

For most, this is a vexingly difficult issue to wrestle with. I’m certainly no exception. The day after we lost, Gabe looked at me and sighed, wondering if this is all worth it – the time, the money for travel, the practicing, the foam rolling, the cruddy hotels, the shoestring budgets.

If you’re not winning, what’s the point?

It’s an easy hole to fall into, especially in this sport, where claiming a top-25 finish in the entire country feels somewhat embarrassing. In any other sport across the world, being top-25 typically means you’re doing quite well for yourself.

I love the fact that Gabe isn’t satisfied after AVP Seattle, that losses sear his soul as deeply they do mine. I love the fact that I’m running consecutive AVPs with the same partner for the first time in my career. We have something to build on.

There’s a process to work through.