A little more than a month ago, Eric Beranek and I sat at a table in Hermosa Beach, watching the USAV Collegiate Beach Championships. I was there to write on it. Beranek was there because, well – because volleyball.

That’s what Beranek does. Usually he’s practicing or playing, though when he got started, he was just happy to shag balls and observe, learning from both the coaching and the players being coached.

And yet as magnificent as this sport is, as enviable a lifestyle it can create, it can break you, and the slightest fractures – just stress fractures, nothing major – were beginning to show in Beranek. He asked if I had qualified for a main draw yet. Nope. And I knew he hadn’t, either.

We sat in silence for a second, me reminiscing on all my heart-wrenching losses, and I’d guess he was doing the same.

“Just a matter of time,” he finally said. “This is our year.”

Both of us wanted to believe it though I’m not sure either of us really did. There wasn’t much conviction behind those words, which rang a bit hollow, as if we were both trying to convince ourselves that, yes, this was indeed our year.

Both of us had had our troubles in qualifiers. I had recently knocked him out of the Huntington Beach country quota, just as I had knocked him out in Huntington Beach the year before. And then I had lost my next match in the qualifier, just as I had the year before.

And then came Austin, where I qualified, and where again my success came at the expense of Beranek, who gave Raffe Paulis and I a hell of a match, a 21-19, 20-22, 16-14 thrill ride that damn near gave me a heart attack.

We shook hands and he was a great sport about it, but I knew the look on his face. I knew that look because I had seen it, had felt it, so many times before.

It was a look that wondered if it was all worth it.

Beranek was too short on points to make it into the qualifier of New York. Perhaps it seemed like a curse then, a loss of opportunity to qualify.

Now we know it may have been a bit of serendipity from the cosmos.

Because then came Seattle, and a new partner in Mike Brunsting, and a new side, playing on the left. He had a bye, then a quick first-round win, and a heart-fought second, and now Beranek was suddenly in a place he had never been before: Two sets to make an AVP main draw. Final round. The one to get in.

The one to validate those endless hours on the beach, to provide a purpose to them.

Down went Paul Lotman and the precocious Miles Partain, 23-21 in a grinder of a first set.

And then they did it, 21-17.

He put his hands over his head. He looked to the sky. He smiled a 1,000-watt smile, adding an extra glow to a magnificent portrait of a sunset.

“First main draw,” he said, and it sounded almost as if he couldn’t believe it himself. “First main draw. In it. So happy.”

It was a moment that is, quite simply, everything that’s beautiful about beach volleyball. Beranek will not get rich from making main draw in Seattle. He won’t even move all that far in the points standings. Two weeks from now, in San Francisco, he’ll be right back to where he was on Thursday morning: In the middle of another brutal qualifier.

And yet it also changes everything. Those endless hours on the beach won’t seem so meaningless anymore. There’s a newfound purpose in things when you’ve alas got the validating result you’ve been seeking for so long. When Beranek says that this year is, finally, his year, he can mean it, and those words won’t seem so hollow anymore, but have the backbone they need for him to truly mean them and use them as a foundation moving forward.

“I’ve played in fourteen tournaments,” he said, and now the other 13 don’t seem to matter so much, because all 13 of those losses can now be viewed with a crystalline clarity as necessary obstacles towards this moment in Seattle.

He’ll keep working, perhaps even harder than before. And he’ll keep grinding.

Though for now, it’s time to alas enjoy it.

The losses paid off.

Beranek’s moment is no longer some figurative, imaginative moment in the hazy and distant future.

His moment is now.