Jeremy Casebeer was in Brazil. Or Japan. Not even John Mayer, Casebeer’s partner throughout the 2017 season, can be sure. Tri Bourne was still sidelined with an autoimmune disease. So Mayer called up his good bud Billy Allen, wondering if he knew of anybody looking to play in a NORCECA qualifier on September 27.

It just so happened Allen was.

Allen’s partner, Stafford Slick, had agreed to play with Casey Patterson, and Allen hadn’t really done much searching for another.

“I just wanted to hang out with Billy and play some volleyball,” Mayer said, laughing.

It made sense, sort of. They’ve been good friends for years. They host a podcast, Coach Your Brains Out, together. They’ve won a few smaller tournaments together.

And by the evening of September 27, they had earned a trip to Jamaica together, having qualified, against all odds and expectations, at the Manhattan Beach Pier out of the most brutal NORCECA qualifier in years.

“When we signed up it was kind of last minute, no training, like hopefully nobody else is really playing maybe we’ll win,” Mayer said. “And then I saw the list and I said ‘Oh, geez, sorry, Billy, sorry we wasted 75 bucks.’ But I guess it worked out.”

That list included John Hyden-Ryan Doherty, Patterson-Slick, Trevor Crabb-Sean Rosenthal, Miles Evans-Billy Kolinske, Avery Drost-Chase Frishman, Ed Ratledge-Eric Zaun.

Their first round came against Ratledge and Zaun, both of whom stand taller than Allen and Mayer, and while Ratledge “was just hitting over us like nobody was even there,” Allen said, they won in two, relying on an efficient side out game, magnetic ball control and a scrappy defense Mayer could only label as “split-pulling.”

“I think if you see a little guy blocking too it kind of changes your game because if you get blocked by a little guy it’s kind of humiliating,” Allen said. Not that they blocked many.

Read the rest of the story in!