They didn’t know what they were playing for. Not entirely, at least.

Initially, John Schwengel and Rowdy Lennon thought they were simply playing in a big AVP First tournament, one where, if they made the finals, they’d play on stadium court during the Hermosa Beach Open. That in itself was reward enough.

They won the finals in front of a sizable crowd, and they thought that would be that.

“And then we get a call a couple months later, and they invited us out to this fashion show thing,” Schwengel said. “We’re just sitting there, watching, having a good time, and out of nowhere Mark Schuermann gets on the mic and says ‘This is John Schwengel and Rowdy Lennon, and these guys get a wild card spot to the AVP of their choice.’ It was awesome. So psyched.”

They were playing in an AVP? Main draw? Of their choice?

They were playing in an AVP. Main draw. Their choice.

AVP Seattle it was.

“It was a cool experience, just rolling up to the qualifier, one o’clock, kinda checking out the games, you know, it was relaxing,” Schwengel said.

“Getting that athlete badge, signing those papers,” Lennon said, grinning from ear to ear. “It was pretty legit.”

It’s funny, too, what happened next. No, they did not beat Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena in the first round. Nor did they beat Chaim Schalk and Tim Bomgren, who came next. But what did happen was a stadium court pulling entirely for the teenagers. And what did happen was ball girls and fans approached them for autographs and pictures.

And at 18 and 19 years old apiece, isn’t that supposed to be what they’re doing? Aren’t they the ones accustomed to requesting the autographs and pictures?

“I’m feelin’ a little famous,” Lennon said.

The roles, for the first time, were reversed, and certainly not for the last time.

Schwengel nearly made it without the benefit of a wild card in New York, playing four matches, all four of which went to three sets before finally succumbing to Mark Burik and Ian Satterfield, seasoned pros both. Lennon plans on playing the remaining stops this season. Given that their peer, Miles Partain, has made a main draw via qualifier and very nearly did so again in Seattle, falling in the final round to Eric Beranek and Mike Brunsting.

For now, they’re content signing autographs, taking pictures. Soon Schwengel will be in China, playing in a U-19 with Tim Brewster, and Lennon will be in the qualifier in San Francisco.

“I’m a free agent,” Lennon said. “I think for me [main draw] was a little bit of nerves and higher expectations for my opponents, thinking they were going to do way more than just play volleyball. That’s what I needed to keep in my mind: It’s volleyball, over and over and over again. Nothing different. No matter who I’m playing.”

“It’s not the level,” Schwengel said. “It’s the knowledge, we could really see they had a lot of that and we didn’t have as much.”

For now, perhaps not.

But what a learning experience this was.