Jake Urrutia, Earl Schultz

Jake Urrutia And Earl Schultz Set New Sights After Making First AVP Main Draw

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The match, the qualifier, the first main draw bid that was just one point away – it was so close, and yet Jake Urrutia knew it was far, far from over.

Up 20-15 in the second set of the final round of the AVP Hermosa Beach qualifier against Kevin Villela and Evan Cory, he knew what the freeze could do to folks in such a tight circumstance. He knew that one point could have been the hardest to earn of the entire day, a long one already at that point, one that had included two matches in what was becoming an unruly qualifier.

“I remember looking at Earl [Schultz] and saying, ‘This is by no means over,’” Urrutia recalled.

“’We have to work for this last point.’”

Three times in the past year and a half, Urrutia had been at that point: One more match win to make a main draw. Twice he had fallen in the final round of Chicago. Only a few months prior, with Schultz at the net, he had lost in the final round of Huntington.

They were dismayed, sure, as anyone would be, but not in a consuming way. They knew the progress they had made as a team: Two tournaments, two final rounds. It was bound to happen at some point.

It “told us that we were doing something right to get that far,” Urrutia said. So they stuck with it. They stuck with it despite a second-round loss in Austin, and a loss in the same round in New York. They stuck with it despite Schultz debating quitting volleyball if they didn’t qualify.

Rather than folding, they joined the p1440 Developmental Program, getting more reps as a team than they had prior.

Then, finally, came Hermosa. Another shot. Barely a few hours came a blessing: Down went the overall No. 1 seed, Kyle Friend and Duncan Budinger. Suddenly, the 16th-seeded team of Urrutia-Schultz were the favorites to qualify. Suddenly, the path didn’t look so bad after all. Suddenly, they were in the final round, up 20-15, with Urrutia asking Schultz for just one more point.

Suddenly, they had it.

A long rally ended with a swing into the net from Villela and Cory, a match-sealing point, a main draw-sealing point.

“It was immediately a sense of relief,” Urrutia said, “to finally see the ball land and to see what I’ve been working for has paid off.”

The goal, at the beginning of the season, was to qualify twice. They’re halfway there, with two more cracks at it, in Manhattan Beach and Chicago, since they’ll be skipping the season-ending stop in Hawai’i. And a partnership that was forged, two years ago, out of Urrutia looking over at a court next to him, and seeing Schultz bouncing balls in Chicago, is now looking international. Just the small stuff: NORCECAs, one-stars. Looking forward nonetheless.

The first one’s out of the way.

The rest of the season awaits.

“I think that qualifying now has changed my mental game at practice and throughout playing,” Urrutia said. “There’s less frustration and more confidence within myself. What I do know is that I remember what it takes to qualify and it won’t be my last time with that AVP athlete pass around my neck.”