LAS VEGAS Nev. (Oct. 19, 2018) – Beach volleyball players Emily Day and Betsi Flint did not know each other well at the beginning of the 2018 season.

That was OK because they both had different partners. Day was playing with Brittany Hochevar and Flint was with Kelley Larsen.

But then came the 2018 Great U.S. Women’s Beach Partner Shakeup in March. Among other changes, Hochevar paired with Kelly Claes and Larsen joined forces with Emily Stockman, which left Day and Flint flying solo.

Day, 31, and Flint, 26, were brought together in mid-April by Jackson Metichecchia, a coach at Loyola Marymount, where both women had played college volleyball (at different times). Day had played strictly indoor while Flint (née Metter) had played both indoor and beach.

Although their chemistry on the court and off was not instant, their shared desire to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games was a great motivator.

“It definitely took us a little bit (of time),” said Flint, who grew up in Phoenix. “We trained for a couple weeks before Huntington. I think we were both successful on our own. It’s hard to figure out how to play together.”

“We didn’t exactly have the honeymoon phase like most teams,” added Day, who is from Torrance, Calif. “But Betsi has high goals and a very great and determined work ethic so I knew it was just a matter of time.”

Their chemistry appeared strong on Friday at the Las Vegas Open presented by p1440 as Day/Flint, seeded 19th, upset Olympians and 18th-seeded Kerri Walsh Jennings/Brooke Sweat in the first round of elimination, 19 – 21, 21 – 19, 15-12.

In the final match of the day, playing under the lights, Day/Flint upset No. 1 seeded Sara Hughes/Summer Ross, 22-20, 14-21, 15-11.

In Saturday’s quarterfinals, they will face Brazil’s Ana Patricia Silva/Rebecca Cavalcanti Barbosa at 12:20 p.m.

In their first tournament together at the Huntington Beach Open in May, Day/Flint finished 25th. They went straight from California to Lucerne, Switzerland, where they finished fifth in the FIVB three-star event. From there, they traveled to Itapema, Brazil, where they placed 25th in the four-star event.

“You get to know each other really fast when you’re on the road, sharing a room and traveling together,” Flint said.

The work on chemistry started paying off in late June/early July, when the team got two straight wins on the AVP Tour in Seattle and San Francisco. The pair then traveled straight to China and won the three-star event in Haiyang.

Heading into Las Vegas, they were ranked 31st in the world and fourth among U.S. teams. A strong finish in Las Vegas will help their standing and move them closer to their shared goal.

“We all know that it’s Olympic qualification,” Day said. “We’ve been playing these teams all year. Everyone’s bringing their A game and there’s no easy road. We just fight every match.”