It was a scramble play, I had failed to put the ball away two times in a row, but was able to redeem my poor offense with a few digs. One more dig — just barely high enough for my partner, Logan Webber, to poke the ball to the deep corner on two. I looked at him, trying to judge his facial expression as I thought, “what happened? Was it in?” He screamed with excitement. It was in.

We had done it.

The two boys from Michigan had just qualified for the FIVB/ AVP Huntington Beach Open. For those of you who do not know much about the volleyball scene in Michigan, boy’s volleyball is pretty much nonexistent. There are one, maybe two clubs that have boy’s volleyball teams and there is no boy’s volleyball in high school. With so few opportunities available, the fact that two boys from the state shaped like a mitten had just qualified was quite significant, at least to the Michigan volleyball community.

As ecstatic as I was, I couldn’t help but remember that the AVP event in Austin, Texas was a mere 15 days away and I was still without a partner. So, I walked over to Troy Field. I had spoken to him previously about possibly teaming up for a few events this summer, but we had not solidified anything. “Hey man,” I said, “great playing. If you’re looking for a partner for Austin, let me know. I think we’d do pretty well.” Logan and I had just beaten him and his partner to get in to the Huntington Beach FIVB/ AVP, so I didn’t feel great about asking him right after our match, but I couldn’t wait. I had a lot of respect for him and his game and I knew that if we teamed up, good things would happen.

Fast forward a few days and Troy and I are finalizing plans via a chat on Instagram. Unfortunately, we would not get to train together before Austin as there was just no time (Troy lives in SoCal, I currently live in NorCal) so planning a trip last minute was going to be costly. But it didn’t really matter, we were just excited about the fact that we would get to play some volleyball! Plus, if you and your partner are trying to figure each other out, how can your opponents figure you out?

The day before the qualifier, I flew down from San Jose and met Troy at the Los Angeles airport, where it had just been announced that our 12:30pm flight to Austin was going to be delayed for nearly six hours. We looked into switching flights and airlines, but that option was just too expensive. So, we decided to get some food and chat. This was really our first time spending more than an hour with each other and it turned into a great team-bonding experience. We talked about where we were from, family life, traveling, hair, music, relationships, favorite foods, movies, oh yeah, and volleyball. As every athlete understands, knowing your teammates off the court is just as important as knowing them on the court. Strong relationships create strong partnerships. I apologize if this sounds sappy, but it’s every bit as important as training.

Speaking of training, Troy has the opportunity to train and play with some of beach volleyball’s greatest, as I am sure you have seen via his Instagram stories. He is out on the beach almost every day putting in the time and work—and it shows. He is very new to beach volleyball (he started playing four or five years ago) and is already quickly becoming one of the best players in the country. He plays with a lot of power, but is also very methodical and thoughtful, focusing on the small details, analyzing each play to figure out how he can execute an act better the next time. We are both similar in this way and I think that is why we were able to be successful in Austin. My training is a little bit different, as I currently live in the San Francisco/ San Jose area, access to the beach is rather limited. The closest beach is Santa Cruz, and that is still an hour away with no traffic. I’ll go down there on the weekends and train with a few guys who have made some main draws. But mostly my training is done during the week at Stanford with a group, coined “the volleyball enthusiasts group,” by Karissa Cook and Katie Spieler, because we play and train for the love of the game (yay volleyball!). We train on a women’s net, Katie digs all my hard hits/ roll shots/ pokeys (I swear she has teleportation abilities), Karissa serves me off the court, and Lauren Fendrick blocks me more than I’d like to admit. Its very frustrating/ fun/ humbling, and I don’t think there’s a group out there that has more fun beating up on each other than we do.

Keeping with the theme “volleyball enthusiasts” and playing for the love of the game, that was the mantra Troy and I had in Austin. After a win we would look at each other, with big smiles, while one of us remarked “we get to play more volleyball.” There are so many people who would kill to have the opportunity to play in the main draw. We were so thankful to have earned that opportunity and we were going to make the most of it. From the get-go we committed to trusting each other, giving every play our all, and to play with a lot of heart. We will do the same when we step on the court together in New York. I can’t wait.

Yay volleyball!

(P.S. yes friends, Troy is single, so please stop asking me! Haha)