Americans Thriving at NORCECA Bonaire

Civil War in Bonaire Semifinals Between Johnson-Austin, Friend-Mewhirter; Wheeler-Davis Move on


By: Travis Mewhirter

BONAIRE – January 26 is when it began for Kris Johnson and Chris Austin. An AVP Next in Carlsbad. An unmemorable ninth was the result, though what that date marks is, in retrospect, quite the symbolic milestone: It was the beginning of nine months of non-stop beach volleyball.

They played tournaments in Carlsbad. In Huntington Beach. On Singer Island and New York City. They played in Colorado and Seattle, in Dallas and Chicago, in Hermosa Beach and Oregon, in Atlantic City and San Diego.

Thirty-three tournaments they’ve played together in their debut season as partners. And tomorrow, the final day of NORCECA Bonaire, will mark, blessedly, if you ask Johnson, the final day of one of the busiest seasons of any American duo.

“People ask me why I’m taking an off-season,” Johnson said, laughing. “And I’m like, ‘That’s why!’”

They will, hilariously, as it always seems to go in these overseas events, play another American team in Saturday’s semifinals, one in which they are likely more familiar with than any other. Like Johnson and Austin, I have been a member of the p1440 Developmental Program since January. Meaning we have practiced with and against one another twice a week for nine months.

And all those tournaments Johnson and Austin played? I’ve played in almost all of them too. We’ve met in more than half of them, beginning with that January AVP Next in Carlsbad and the finals of the qualifier for this very event.

It’s poetic in a way. We begin the season playing one another. We end the season playing one another.

And, anyway, the fact that we are playing one another is a good thing. It means we both made the semifinals, and because of a quirky NORCECA rule where the two teams in the finals cannot be from the same country, the bracket was redone so we played against one another in the semifinals.  

We’re not the first Civil War here in Bonaire, either. Allie Wheeler and Aurora Davis – Snowdog and Supermom – met Melissa Fuchs-Powell and Lindsey Fuller in the quarterfinals two matches prior to my and Kyle Friend’s semifinal against El Salvador. Wheeler and Davis came out on top, 21-9, 21-13, in a partnership that is quickly gelling.

“It’s absolutely gorgeous here and it’s all positive good vibes,” said Wheeler, who made the cross-continental trek from AVP Hawai’i. “Playing with Aurora has been really fun, she’s such a baller and super mom! We honestly didn’t practice before this tournament, but we have been getting better and better with each game.”

Wheeler and Davis will see Guatemala in tomorrow’s semifinals, with top-seeded Mexico and Canada in the other semifinal.

Fuchs-Powell and Fuller will play Trinidad and Tobago for an opportunity to get back into fifth place.

And, of course, how it’s gone all season, I will play Johnson and Austin, just as I did in Carlsbad, in Huntington, in Hermosa Beach, in Chicago – literally everywhere.

Caribbean included.