FIVB World Championships

FIVB World Championships: Tri Bourne, Trevor Crabb not Worried About Playing Perfect

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The key to success at World Championships is actually a simple one, if you ask Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb: Don’t suck.

They haven’t, and didn’t, this morning in Hamburg, Germany, but a few weeks ago, in the Czech Republic?

“We absolutely sucked, so there’s that,” Bourne said. “We were terrible in the Czech Republic. It was all about us.”

It explains why they weren’t too concerned when they were scheduled to see the same team, Konstantin Semenov and Ilya Leshukov, who smacked them in Ostrava, 21-11, 21-13, knocking them out in what would be the first in a consecutive pair of 17th place finishes.

“They just smashed us,” Crabb said. “We played so bad.”

No major changes were needed in their game, then, to flip that score in a major way in Friday’s quarterfinals. Gone were the errors they made in Ostrava, limiting them to four to Russia’s 11, the first step in rewriting the narrative against the Russians. A 21-18 first set turned into a 21-18 second set, and though the result was remarkably different, the preparation, the strategy, the mindset, was remarkably the same.  

“We turned it around and we were playing well on our side and forced them to make a lot of errors,” Crabb said. “As long as we fix our side, we can beat anybody.”

When competing at a World Championship level, there is hardly any such thing as major adjustments. All the macros, from all teams, are, for the most part, taken care of. For Bourne, it was a few subtle mental adjustments, an easing of pressure to perform well at an event at which he has enjoyed previous success. At this same event in 2015, still a relative newcomer in the beach volleyball world, he and John Hyden took fifth, a result he wanted to repeat. Only sometimes, most of the time, really, the pressure of expectations backfires.

“I knew this was a big moment for me to be back here so I wanted to do everything perfectly,” Bourne said. “I was able to forget about doing stuff perfectly and take that pressure off. Just relax into the game and let it come to me and see what the game offers instead of trying to create something that might not be there.”

Nothing was forced on Friday morning, just as nothing was forced on Thursday, either, when Bourne and Crabb found themselves down one set to none against a home German team and a stadium full of 9,000 German fans. They’ve been doing this long enough to know that one set is just one set. There’s three for a reason.

“Things don’t have to feel good to pull out a victory,” Bourne said. “You kind of just ride it and stay focused.”

They did, coming back to beat Nils Ehlers and Lars Fluggen, 15-21, 21-19, 15-10, setting up the rematch with Semenov and Leshukov, and the victory that would push them into the quarterfinals against Brazilians Andre Loyola and George Wanderley, who upset second-seeded Grzegorz Fijalek and Michael Bryl.

Saturday’s quarterfinal means another shot at revenge. It was Andre and George who beat Bourne and Crabb for bronze at the Jinjiang four-star in late May. Now it can be Bourne and Crabb who can keep the Brazilians off the podium.

“I think we’re just at a point in the season where we were just sick of the way we were playing,” Bourne said. “We weren’t playing to the best of our abilities and we were sick of it, but we knew it could change at any moment so we let the energy of this event change the tide for us. It doesn’t feel like the last time we got a fifth at World Champs. I was pretty stoked on that fifth and pretty content on it. Now we want another match and we try to win every tournament. If it happens to be the biggest tournament so be it.”

A simple mindset. As it turns out, a winning one, too.

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