It was sort of alarming, how easy it looked.
Chase Frishman and Mike Brunsting had never qualified for an AVP main draw before. Not together, at least. Brunsting had made it two years prior, with Paul Araiza in Huntington Beach — but then he struck out the next year, getting booted from four straight qualifiers.
And now there they were, in Huntington Beach in 2015, their first real tournament together, laying into Ed Ratledge and Ty Loomis, two men with nearly three decades of professional experience between them. The first set went 21-13 in the youngsters’ favor, and if you would have thought that the veterans would have regathered themselves, remained composed, fought back, as would have been reasonable to expect, you’d have been wrong.
Frishman and Brunsting won the next, 21-12, and Frishman had qualified for his first AVP tournament.
“I just remember Ed on his knees, looking at the sky, saying ‘Why can’t you just play better?'” Frishman recalled on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter.
At the time, yes, it seemed a sizable upset, two players with just one main draw between them taking down an AVP champion and one of the tour’s most experienced blockers. Time would prove otherwise. Frishman and Brunsting would qualify in four of the next five events, with a season-best finish of seventh. At the end-of-year banquet, Frishman would succeed Taylor Crabb in winning Rookie of the Year.
It all preceded another massive jump this season. In San Francisco, his first tournament with Avery Drost, Frishman took a career-best fifth, and followed it up with another career-best in the next tournament, in Hermosa Beach, when he made the semifinals.
With 2018 looming, and Frishman just two full-time seasons into his professional career, he has begun to set his sights on goals higher than just the AVP. This season will be his first dabbling in the international waters, potentially as early as Shepparton in the first week of February.
Lofty, sure. But at the rate Frishman’s game has been improving, far from what could even be considered a reach goal. Tokyo in 2020 is likely out of reach, but Paris 2024? It’ll be between Taylor Crabb, Frishman, Eric Zaun, Miles Evans and Chaim Schalk, more than likely, save for a few veterans extending their careers a few unexpected seasons.
“I’m moving in the right direction,” Frishman said. “I’m moving up, taking the right steps.”
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