MAY 24, 2022 - SAN ANTONIO, TX - Alas, Tim Brewster has found them: The 22-year-old has discovered his limits. Perhaps found or discovered aren’t quite the right words, actually.
Rather: Tim Brewster smashed into them, head-on, driving his 6-foot frame 150 miles per hour. Here’s what the limits look like for a kid who hadn’t previously registered any notion of them: Five tournaments in five weekends, roughly 14,500 miles flown, three passport stamps, 25 matches played, one silver medal, one enormous victory.
“I’ve never hurt like this before,” Brewster said. “Yesterday did it for me.”
By yesterday, he’s referencing a very, very, very long Sunday in San Antonio, Texas. It was a day that began at 7:30 in the morning, on an uncharacteristically chilly Texas dawn, with Nolan Albrecht and Ian Bicko. It wouldn’t end until near sunset, four matches later, 12 sets in total, and the biggest victory of his young career in hand, one that finished in a 21-18, 21-18 victory over Chase Frishman and Noah Dyer, and one that was harder earned than anyone could have possibly anticipated.
When Brewster teamed up with Andy Benesh for the San Antonio AVPNext that would serve as both a $20,000 tournament and a qualifier into this week’s AVP Pro Series event in New Orleans, Louisiana, he felt the pressure before he even stepped onto the plane. Benesh was coming off the most momentous event of his career, a win at the AVP Pro Series in Austin, Texas, in which he and Phil Dalhausser shocked the field by winning every single match they played. It was Benesh’s first win, a clear sign that the 27-year-old was becoming the rightful heir to the American blocking throne recently vacated by Dalhausser and Jake Gibb.
And here was Tim Brewster, playing behind that block. Anything less than a win would be, in his mind, a failure.
“It was a little stressful playing with Andy because it’s like: If I don’t win with Andy, it’s like [shoot!]’” Brewster said. “Definitely stoked. It’s different. Definitely relieved. In Cuba [a NORCECA in which Brewster won his first international medal, a silver], I felt like we should definitely medal. It was a good opportunity. Getting a win with Andy was big because there were big expectations there and he had just won Austin. It was a pretty good relief but now I’m stoked about it. The ups and downs are pretty crazy.”
There are few better at weathering the mercurial nature of beach volleyball, the wild swings of emotions and results, than Brewster. For years, he has been so-close-you-can-taste-it to success on the professional stage. In 2018, when he was just 19 years old, he and John Schwengel marched through to the final round of the AVP New York qualifier, losing 18-21, 21-18, 11-15 to Mark Burik and Ian Satterfield. A month later, in Hermosa Beach, they fell in the third round to Benesh and Cole Fiers. Last year, in Atlanta, he and Mike Boag pushed their way into the final round once more, only to lose to Mike Groselle and DR Vander Meer.
It was, as people would say quite often, only a matter of time until the breakthrough finally came, which is as pleasant to hear as it is frustrating.
When would that time be?
“It’s felt like a long time, yeah,” he said.
And if there is anyone attempting to throw an asterisk on this victory, that he was victorious by simple virtue of playing with one of the best blockers in the country, that asterisk can be immediately removed. In the finals, Brewster was mostly left without the vaunted powers of Benesh. At 8-8 in the second set, after winning the first, 21-18, Benesh’s muscles began spazzing into one gigantic lower body cramp.
“It was quads, hamstrings, calves, it was all of it,” Brewster said. “He had six more side-outs in him.”
Benesh had about as many side-outs left in him as he had beers – a legitimate and swift anti-cramping solution – poured into him. Four beers went down, as did those side-outs. But at 15-13, there was no gas left in the tank.
This was Tim Brewster’s tournament to win.
“He got us to 15-13, 16-14 siding out, and he said ‘I’m going down. You have to hit the rest of the balls on two, I can’t jump,’” Brewster recalled. “Then he had the most clutch block. He had one block jump left in him and he got [an angle block] on Chase.
“I think the whole final he maybe celebrated two times. He was dead at the beginning of it, and when the cramping started, he was like ‘Alright, let’s just get through this.’”
They got through it, all right, with Brewster hitting every ball on two to close it out. Benesh promptly took the next 30 to 45 minutes to lay on the ground, seven matches played, seven matches won, the satisfaction of a tournament win putting him to rest, right there on the sand at 210 Beach.
While they were the victors of the 48-team tournament, they were not the only winners, in a sense. Five teams qualified for this weekend’s AVP Pro Series in New Orleans, including Frishman and Dyer, Skylar del Sol and Andrew Dentler, Lev Priima and Silila Tucker, Rafu Rodriguez and Dave Palm, and Adam Roberts and Cody Caldwell.
While Brewster technically qualified for his first AVP, he cannot play in New Orleans, as Benesh is partnered with Nick Lucena. What will he do, then, while everyone else heads down to the Big Easy?
He’ll sleep, for once. Then he’ll sleep some more. And then, as Tim Brewster does, he’ll get back to playing beach volleyball.
~ Travis Mewhirter: @trammew