Slinging the Sand: Beach Pro Tour American teams found success in the first Dubai tournament

American pairs of Andy Benesh and Miles Partain and Katie Horton and Julia Scoles both exceeded expectations.

Taylor Crabb in a white jersey jousts at the net with France's Youssef Krou in a red jersey.

Fall is in full swing, but that doesn’t mean beach volleyball stops. The Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour is never-ending – well until January, but I digress.

The main tournaments going on right now are the Dubai UAE Challenge events. And yes, I said events plural because there are two back-to-back tournaments.

Side note, Challenge level tournaments of the Beach Pro Tour (the international tour) is a feeder to the Elite 16 level events. Elite 16 is the highest level, and there is also a level below Challenge called Future which is typically for less established players.

The first Dubai event already concluded as it took place from October 22 to October 25. The next Elite 16 event will begin on November 2 in Cape Town, South Africa.

American men showed out at the first Dubai event. Miles Partain and Trojan alum Andy Benesh became the first U.S. men to win gold at a Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour event. At only 20 years old, Partain also became one of the youngest players to win a Challenge event.

Partain and Benesh dominated throughout the entire tournament. They only dropped a single set which came in the round of 16 against the Swedish pair Yves Haussener and Quentin Métral. Even in that match, the third set was a blowout 15-7.

Even the gold medal match wasn’t particularly close as the Americans cruised to a 21-15, 21-17 win against Ukraine’s Sergiy Popov and Eduard Reznik.

“I am very proud of our federation for doing a great job supporting us. We, the men, have been lacking a little bit and we are trying to find our way back on the map,” Benesh said in an interview with Volleyball World.

There were three other American men’s pairs at the event who performed well. Logan Webber and Evan Cory came from qualifying to finish fourth. On the way to their fourth-place finish, they beat fellow Americans Taylor Crabb and Paul Lotman in a tight three-set match.

The last American team of Chase Budinger and Troy Field did not make it out of pool play.

On the women’s side, there were more Americans there, but an American team didn’t end up at the top of the podium.

However, Katie Horton and USC alumna Julia Scoles did end up on the podium but just in third. This was Scoles’ and Horton’s first international event as a pair.

Scoles and Horton came from qualifying and battled their way to the semi-finals. They ended up falling to the eventual champions from the Czech Republic, Barbora Hermannova and Marie-Sara Stochlova.

Two other American teams also made it all the way to the quarterfinals. Savannah Simo and Jessica Gaffney also lost to Hermannova and Stochlova. Simo and Gaffney won the second set in overtime, but then the Czechs dominated the third set winning 15-8.

Xolani Hodel and USC alum Hailey Harward had their run come to an end at the hands of China’s Xia Xinyi and Lin MeiMei in a two-set match where the American pair racked up 17 errors. Xia and Lin went on to place second.

All in all, it was a solid outing for the Americans on both sides of the tournament.

Americans — particularly Trojan Americans — will look to continue their success into the second Dubai event going on right now which will conclude on October 30.

I would look out for Harward and Hodel to make a run. They’ve looked incredible at times but haven’t played consistently enough to end up on the podium. If they can cut back on their errors, they can be a dangerous team.

On the men’s side, Crabb and Lotman are still trying to find their chemistry together, but if they can they can beat anyone.

All the teams in Dubai are extremely talented, and it should be another exciting tournament.

The play of the “week” is a jumpset executed to perfection by Americans Webber and Cory:

“Slinging the Sand” runs every other Friday.