There is nothing like an unexpected opportunity to get the competitive fire burning.

Betsi Metter, a Desert Vista graduate, and her tandem sand volleyball partner Kelly Larsen know all about it.

They just returned from Poland after finishing fifth in the FIVB U23 World Championships, an event they entered as an alternate after another twosome from Nigeria didn’t make it through customs in time for their first match.

So Metter and Larsen, playing their first international event together, were added to the tournament out of the reserve list.

“We didn’t qualify initially and got put on a reserve list. If the other team didn’t show up by the coin toss, we were in,” Metter said. “So we warmed up like we were going to play.

“When they didn’t show up, we got so excited. I couldn’t believe this was happening.”

The tandem was seeded 36th and faced the No. 1 seed in their first match in pool play. It didn’t matter. The second opportunity seemed to inspire Metter and Larsen. And they were victorious, winning 2-0 over a Poland duo.

The underdog American pair didn’t lose a set in pool play, taking less than 40 minutes to conquer each opponent.

“We felt really well prepared going in,” said Metter, who graduated from Loyola Marymount in December with her B.S. in natural sciences. “Our coach at Loyola, Tom Black, is awesome, and great with everyone.”

Metter started playing beach volleyball for LMU in her sophomore year when the school added it as a sport, and it was the first time she played it competitively.

“I was an outside hitter at Desert Vista,” Metter said. “When I got to Loyola, I started playing libero. My sophomore year they added sand volleyball, and now 41 schools have it.”

She says she enjoys playing sand more than indoor because she gets to do everything.

“It’s all you and your partner out there. You can’t hide behind five other people. I like how relaxing it is,” Metter said.

LMU placed third at nationals in sand volleyball this season with the pair of Metter and Litara Keil while Larsen played at Pepperdine.

The now-graduate student said Desert Vista coach Molly West did an excellent job preparing her for college and Black continued to build on that as she and Larsen went to play in Poland.

“Going into the tournament was new because it was our first time seeing international competition, but I felt like we were ready for it,” Metter said.

The pair’s 5-0 record in pool play earned them an automatic spot in the tournament’s second round, an elimination round, where they dispatched the 21st-seeded tandem from Italy, 2-1.

Just four hours later, however, the clock struck midnight on their Cinderella tale when they lost 20-22, 21-12, 15-10 to Finland’s Taru Lahti and Anniina Parkkinen.

For Metter, this isn’t the end of the road. Hip surgery caused her to miss the 2013 season, so she still has one year of eligibility left with LMU’s indoor program.

She is a mere 132 digs away from setting the LMU record. In 2012, she had 520 digs in 31 matches.

The LMU grad is also part of the USA training program and will compete for the U26 division next year. Metter plans to turn pro once her eligibility is up at the end of the coming school year

“It’s been great the way everything has worked out,” Metter said. “I’ve been really fortunate.”

• Will Argeros is a junior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He is interning this semester for the AFN.

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