p1440 Top Gun: Partners become opponents

p1440 Top Guns: Where partners will play against one another

Carolina Salgado-Maria Antonelli

It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen them apart, Miles Evans and Billy Kolinske. Long enough that it’s almost strange to mention one without the other.

That’s how it goes with beach partnerships sometimes, and these two are no different. The last time Evans played without Kolinske in a major professional tournament was in July of 2017, in the NVL’s lone event of the season, which he won with Dave Palm. Two months later, he was in the Dominican Republic with Kolinske, winning a NORCECA, beginning a wild, circuitous journey that has been the 2017 and 2018 seasons. It’s a journey that has included stops in 12 countries. It’s included everything from one-and-done qualifiers to podiums in the Netherlands and Australia.

At the end of the month, though, it will include, for the first time in a professional event, the possibility of playing against one another.

p1440 Huntington Beach features two tournaments with varying formats. There is the Top Guns, a King of the Beach-style tournament in which the top 16 players of each gender from around the world will vie against one another for the title of beach volleyball’s “Top Gun.”

Which could mean pitting patners such as Evans and Kolinske, or Brazilians Maria Antonelli and Carolina Salgado, against one another.

“I want to beat him as much as I want to beat everyone else,” Kolinske said, adding that Evans is happy to remind him that he beat him in Seaside, Oregon.

Antonelli and Salgado, who have also committed to the Top Gun tournament, have played the previous 20 events together. They’ve finished No. 1 in the world together. They’ve podiumed in both p1440 events together, with a silver in San Jose and a bronze in Las Vegas.

Now they could see each other on the other side of the net. The last time that happened came in 2017, in a country quota in their hometown of Rio de Janeiro. Salgado, playing alongside Juliana Felisberta, came out on top, beating Antonelli and Carolina Horta, 23-21, 19-21, 16-14.

Two weeks later, in Moscow, they were partners. A year after that, they were the No. 1 team on Earth.

That’s part of the fun of formats like the Top Gun. On the one hand, you get to see partnerships you might never see anywhere else, or ever again, for that matter. You could see two blockers, Sam Pedlow and Billy Kolinske, play two defenders in Casey Jennings and Miles Evans. You could see partnerships that, for the most part, could reside exclusively in the imagination – Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Pedro Salgado? Kerri Walsh-Jennings and Carolina Solberg?

Now, those partnerships are no longer limited to the imagination. At the end of November, depending on the draw, they’re quite likely to happen.