It was a look that featured a strange blend of joy and exhaustion, one athletes know all too well. Emily Day and Betsi Flint had just wrapped up their first day at AVP San Francisco, playing the maximum number of sets (six), two of those going into extra points.
Worse yet, they had lost their second match of the day, relegating them to the contender’s bracket, portending a long grinder of a road ahead if they were to make the finals in San Francisco and defend the Seattle title they earned two weeks before.
And oh, they were only getting started.
Before they would cap the weekend with another AVP title in San Francisco, finishing with a 21-17, 16-21, 15-7 win over Geena Urango and Caitlin Ledoux, before they would play 16 sets in three days, before they would win their second title in as many AVPs, they had a plane to catch.
“We went straight from Seattle,” said Flint, who alongside Day beat April Ross and Ledoux in the finals 19-21, 21-19, 18-16, “just jumped in the lake and hopped on a plane to Poland, where we had to qualify on Wednesday.”
And they did, winning both matches, the second, of course, going to three. They “came out flat,” Flint said, in the main draw, losing to Agatha and Duda in the first match and another pair of Brazilians, Josemari Alves and Liliane Maestrini in the second.
Not that they had much time to wallow and recover, for it was straight to San Francisco.
“We definitely have to stay hydrated,” Day said. “That flight to Poland was pretty rough. I may have cramped in the airport changing room. But that’s what we want to do. We want to play every weekend and so we’re out there to play every weekend. We’ll do whatever.”
So they do what every over-traveled, underslept, exhausted athlete does: They convinced themselves they were fine.
“It’s interesting because you think you feel ok,” Day said. “You talk yourself into it, like ‘I feel good, blah blah blah, I came off a win,’ then you get on the court and it’s like ‘Oh, God, don’t feel as good as I thought.’ But mentally we know that every team is good on the world stage so we just need to take it point by point, but winning Seattle gave us confidence. We actually had a huge comeback to qualify for Poland. We might have been down 8-2 in Poland and we came back to win 15-12. Not sure if that’s ever going to happen again but we took it and ran with it.”
They took it and ran with it all the way back to San Francisco, coming back – again – in the contender’s bracket, rallying from a first-set loss to Lara Dykstra and Sheila Shaw to win 20-22, 23-2, 15-12. A win and a forfeit later, they were in the semifinals, rematched with the team that put them in the contender’s in the first place: Brittany Howard and Kelly Reeves.
They won, 21-14, 21-13.
A finals rematch with Ledoux awaited, and again, it went – and how could it not? – to three sets, where Day and Flint prevailed, 15-7.
Three weeks, three tournaments, 16 matches, 37 sets, two AVP wins, one FIVB qualification. Standard month for Day and Flint.
“Qualifying is an awesome accomplishment and not something we ever take for granted,” Day said.
But it’s pretty special winning an AVP and getting the champagne, family and friends. Just trying to win.”