What. A. Comeback. Flint-Scoles stun world No. 1 Ana Patricia and Duda

Throw away the script, Mr. Director. These stories ought to be believable, you know? And this one, well, it’s not exactly the believable sort, is it? Ana Patricia and Duda Lisboa, the world champs, the top-ranked team on the planet, the one with four straight podiums and two consecutive wins, giving up a 14-9 lead in the third set?

Well, that’s just a bit ridiculous.

Only two people in the world might buy that type of storyline. Their names are Betsi Flint and Julia Scoles. And even they might not have bought the script, in all honesty.

“Definitely some disbelief at the end,” Flint admitted.

And yet we better all believe it, for that’s exactly what happened in Montreal on Saturday afternoon. Flint and Scoles engineered the comeback of the year, if not the decade — and pardon the hyperbole, but if you know a better comeback, we’re happy to field all nominations — extending their timely Cinderella run even further, into Sunday’s semifinals, where they’ll get two cracks at their first medal of the season.

How, it begs asking, did Flint and Scoles mount a five-match-point comeback against a team that doesn’t allow such things?

“Honestly,” Flint said afterwards, “I blacked out. I need to go re-watch it.”

For those of you without a Volleyball TV subscription, or for those of you who also happened to black out during the madness, it goes something like this.

First, you spot the best team in the world leads of 5-2, 8-4, even 11-4. You suffer from trickle aces, blocks, bump kills. You see the other team laughing, giggling. They get lackadaisical at times, Duda attempting three over-on-one kills in a span of two points. Flint chases one down and gets an accidental over-on-one kill of her own.

The score is 12-5 and nobody, least of all Ana Patricia and Duda, seem all that concerned. Ana Patricia chuckles, shrugs. Flint goes over on one again, this time on purpose, to draw it to 12-6. Again, Duda and Ana Patricia laugh. They have double Flint and Scoles’ total points, after all, and are just three away from sealing the match. The threat is not a serious one.

There are aces and swings and errors and the match sort of moseys on, to 14-9. It is only a matter of time. But she’s a gritty one, Flint.

“We know sets aren’t over until they are over,” she said, sounding very much like the fine coach she once was for Loyola Marymount.

So she pops a high line and sneaks an ace on Ana Patricia to draw it to 14-11. Another beaming float serve puts Ana Patricia in enough trouble that she sends a free ball over and well out of bounds. Brazil calls a timeout, triggering the “moment where we smiled and laughed for the first time all match,” Flint said. “It was a smile and look of ‘OK, we are doing this!’ ”

No, they weren’t doing this, because nobody does this. Sure, teams take sets off of Duda and Ana Patricia. Twenty-three of them this season, in fact. Yet few actually win those three-setters. Duda and Ana Patricia had won seven straight such matches entering Saturday’s quarterfinal. Flint hadn’t topped Duda in eight times trying. Surely, this was not the time. Flint’s own husband had even turned the television off at 4-10, turning his full attention to the basketball team he coaches.

Imagine his surprise, then, when, out of the timeout, Duda clips the net, saving a fourth match point. Now double that surprise when, on the ensuing sideout, Ana Patricia’s angle swing sprays wide, gifting, unbelievably, Flint and Scoles their first match point.

It’s squandered, that first opportunity, a Scoles swing buried into the net after an excellent pull dig. But the comeback wouldn’t be squandered at all, for her next swing finds the sand in the hard angle, putting her back at the service line. Typically, it’s Scoles’ jump-serve, a big, booming topspin serve, that is the ticket to her aces. Yet here she decides to float at Ana Patricia, whose pass shoots forward and under the net, a third and final ace to cap a comeback that defies all logic and imagination and even the devotion of the most loyal of doting husbands.

“The text and call I got from him after will be a core memory for life,” Flint said. And the comeback will be a core memory on the Beach Pro Tour, the wildest in recent — or extended — memory. Scoles simply fell to her knees and sobbed, the emotions of an indelible day literally pouring out of her.

Betsi Flint and Julia Scoles celebrate a point at the Montreal Elite16/Volleyball World photo

Let us not forget, amidst the madness of that comeback, how the day began, a 21-17, 21-10 smashing of Australians and Olympic silver medalists Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho. Such a win would have been enough to leave the tournament on a high note. Regardless of what happened in their quarterfinal against Duda and Ana Patricia, Montreal would have marked the best finish of the season for Flint and Scoles.

And then, well, the absurd happened, and now they are sitting on a pile of house money, matched up against Katja Stam and Raisa Schoon in Sunday’s semifinals, an opportunity to win their first medal of the season.

“A miracle,” an exhausted Scoles said afterwards. “Pretty drained but feeling grateful.”

Compared to the women, the route to the semifinals for Andy Benesh and Miles Partain seems a bit mundane. Sure, they went three with Vitor Felipe and Renato Lima. But their 21-13 win in the second, and 15-10 in the third just felt a bit boring, when putting it side-by-side with the quarterfinal of Flint and Scoles. It wasn’t, of course. Boring isn’t a word to be used when Benesh and Partain step onto the court. Benesh blocked seven balls to Brazil’s zero, and they carried on the hottest, most consistent streak the USA has seen since Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena teamed up in late 2015.

No American men’s team has medaled in three events in a row since Dalhausser and Lucena did so in three straight weeks in the fall of 2015. Partain and Benesh, on the heels of a bronze in the Ostrava Elite16 and gold in the Gstaad Elite16, can match their elders. They’ll be up against Italy’s Alex Ranghieri and Adrian Carambula in Sunday’s semifinals, which marks the first meeting of the two teams.

Should they win, they will likely have a rematch with Norway’s Anders Mol and Christian Sorum, a team who has made every final this season yet has yet to beat Benesh and Partain, twice stumped in the Gstaad Elite16 — first in pool, then again in the gold medal match. First, Mol and Sorum will have to navigate Brazil’s Evandro Goncalves and Arthur Mariano, a pair who snuck out of pool play before beating Chase Budinger and Miles Evans (21-19, 21-19) and Qatar’s Cherif Samba and Ahmed Tijan (21-18, 21-18) on Saturday.

As for the other Americans, both Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes, and Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth bowed out to the home team, Melissa Humana-Paredes and Brandie Wilkerson. They’ve commanded the adulation of a fantastic crowd, Humana-Paredes and Wilkerson, and they are “worth at least two or three points every match,” Humana-Paredes said afterwards.

Melissa Humana-Paredes and Brandie Wilkerson celebrate with the fans at the Montreal Elite16/Volleyball World photo

They needed those points, too. Down 4-8 in the third set against Cheng and Hughes, they charged back, fending off a pair of match points before ultimately prevailing, 17-15, in the third. The next, against Nuss and Kloth, was an instant classic, a titanic battle between two of the best defensive players in the world, one that Humana-Paredes and Wilkerson would win in three again, 21-15, 14-21, 15-8.

The Canadians will meet China’s Chen Xue and Xinyi Xia, who have dropped only a single set this weekend in Montreal.

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