CHICAGO — As good as they are, Terese Cannon and Taryn Kloth seemed to be reduced to spectators at times Saturday afternoon as two of the best beach volleyball defensive players in the game, Sarah Sponcil and Kristen Nuss, went at it in the quarterfinals of AVP Chicago.

Jumbo after jumbo, which, for the uninitiated, are long, arcing, often indefensible shots into the angle, over the block.

“There was one when you did it and then she did it and you did it and then she did it,” Cannon said with a laugh as she looked at Sponcil. “And I was like, this is fun.”

Fun indeed. Ultimately second-seeded Sponcil and Cannon got past sixth-seeded Kloth and Nuss 21-19, 18-21, 20-18 to move into Sunday’s AVP Gold Series Chicago Open.

Sarah Sponcil digs/Rick Atwood photo

“That was fun,” Sponcil said. “That’s the one that you remember.”

She and Nuss simply made play after play. And on a couple of those by Nuss, Sponcil admitted, “It’s like, I’ve got to give you credit on the jumbos. Sometimes you can’t turn around. I can’t get that.”

Both Sponcil, the Olympian, and Cannon play right-handed, but write with their left hands. They played together here in 2018 and also got to the semifinals, but took a hard road. This season, they broke through and won their first AVP together two months ago in Hermosa Beach and finished second a month ago in Atlanta. Sponcil knows how important it can be to keep winning and play the minimum.

“You get one less match, you get to watch the people that play in the fifth-place round in the morning,” Sponcil said.

“You want to get that extra hour to sleep in and put your feet up,” Cannon added.

Also in the semifinals are fourth-seeded Kelly Cheng and Betsi Flint, who won a rematch of the Manhattan Beach final, this time beating top-seeded Sara Hughes and Kelley Kolinske 21-19, 19-21, 15-10.

“We wanted to make a statement in that match and I think we did that,” said Cheng, who added that it wasn’t lost on her and Flint when they were up 13-10 in the third. At the MBO, that was the lead they squandered to Hughes and Kolinske.

“We talked a lot about how we want to write our own story. It’s in our hands,” Cheng said.

Tina Graudina stretches out/Mark Rigney photo

Kloth and Nuss will play fifth-seeded Tina Graudina, the Latvian Olympian, and Sarah Pavan, the Canadian Olympian, paired for the first time. They faced elimination but overpowered 14th-seeded Kim Hildreth and Karolina Marciniak 21-12, 21-13. 

Hughes and Kolinske face the other Canadian Olympians, also playing together for the first time, Brandie Wilkerson and Melissa Humana-Paredes. They advanced with a 21-13, 21-17 win over 10th-seeded Corinne Quiggle and Sarah Schermerhorn. Hughes and Wilkerson were partners in Chicago last year,

The Nos. 2 and 4 men’s seeds are also in the semifinals. 

Fourth-seeded Taylor Crabb and Taylor Sander won a tough match over ninth-seeded upstarts Kyle Friend and Tim Brewster 21-18, 18-21, 17-15, capping the victory with two big blocks by Sander.

Kyle Friend powers the ball through the block of Taylor Crabb/Rick Atwood photo

“Anytime I can get a block it’s a great thing,” Sander said. “We were just battling. It’s hot out there. Hotter than it looks. But they’re a scrappy team and they play good volleyball.

“But, yeah, I made a couple of big moves and I’m stoked on them.”

The other semifinalists are second-seeded Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb, Taylor’s brother, who blasted third-seeded Paul Lotman and Miles Partain 21-14, 21-18. By the time they played, the wind had kicked up a bit, clouds moved in and it got cooler.

Brewster and Friend will play 16th-seeded Hagen Smith and Jake Dietrich, who got past 10th-seeded Evan Cory and Dave Palm 14-21, 21-15, 21-19.

Lotman and Partain, who won in Atlanta, face the senior-citizens team of Phil Dalhausser and Casey Patterson. The fifth seeded 42-year-olds have grinded through a tough, long road to get this far. Saturday, they beat seventh-seeded Andy Benesh and Miles Evans 20-22, 21-15, 15-12 before ousting sixth-seeded Chase Budinger and Troy Field 14-21, 21-17, 15-10.

Click here for the complete men’s results and schedule and here for the women’s, courtesy of

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Miles Evans with the dig/Rick Atwood photo


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