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USAV NORCECA Qualifier

Kyle Friend, Travis Mewhirter; Geena Urango, Emily Hartong Win NORCECA Qualifier

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MANHATTAN BEACH: Kyle Friend and I were down 15-13 in the second set of the finals in Wednesday’s NORCECA qualifier when both of us felt compelled to smile.

“We do love some adversity,” I said, laughing a little, to which he agreed. Our partnership, or whatever you’d like to call the sporadic string of matches Friend and I have played together, has been consistent in one aspect: We’re better when we’re down, or when we have gone down. No other way to describe it.

In La Paz, Mexico, the first tournament we ran together, where we finished second, we dropped the first set in three critical matches and were, to some, hopelessly down in the third in two of them.

We won all of them – pool play vs. Mexico, down 8-4 in the third set after dropping the first; quarterfinals vs. Belize, down 13-10 in the third set after dropping the second; losing the first set, again, to Guatemala in the semifinals.

So our concern level wasn’t all that high when we watched a 12-9 second set lead flip into a 15-13 deficit, down one set to none, in the finals against Kris Johnson and Chris Austin. Because when we gave away another – and by we, I mean I gave away another – to go down 16-13, we did that thing we do and came back and won the second set, 23-21. Then we won the third, 15-11, sealing up another adventurous NORCECA trip to tournaments in Punta Cana and Bonaire, in the middle of September and the end of it, respectively.

“We got down in both matches today, but I felt we kept a healthy demeanor on the court and that confidence, knowing we could come back from anything,” Friend said. “That feeling is real nice to have with your partner. Doesn’t always work that way.”

It worked for both relatively new partnerships on Wednesday afternoon. The women’s side was able to get a glimpse of the new and exciting partnership of Geena Urango and Emily Hartong, who could very well be one of the best serving American teams. They won matches over Audrey and Nicole Nourse, Carly Wopat and Traci Callahan and AVP Austin champs Karissa Cook and Jace Pardon.

Typically, the U.S. is only guaranteed one spot, though in most cases the top two teams will be able to compete, meaning Mewhirter-Friend, Austin-Johnson, Urango-Hartong and Cook-Pardon are more than likely going to be enjoying a busy September, with AVP Chicago, Punta Cana, AVP Hawai’i and Bonaire scheduled in a five-week stretch.

Then again: Who doesn’t love a little adversity?

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