Brandie Wilkerson stretches out/Stephen Burns photo

KENNER, Louisiana — Weather permitting — and the weather is expected to be a major factor here at Coconut Beach on Saturday — the AVP New Orleans continues with some showcase matches. 

The big one is on the women’s side when top-seeded Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes, who allowed a total of 49 points in two sweeps Friday, play fourth-seeded hometown faves Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss. 

There’s also pro beach volleyball in Brazil and pool play continues at the Volleyball World Saquarema Challenge.

AVP New Orleans

Cheng, the Tokyo Olympian, and her former USC teammate, Hughes, destroyed Aurora Davis and Lydia Smith 21-8, 21-11 before rolling over the Brazilian pair of Larissa and Lili 21-16, 21-14.

“We’re finding a good groove,” Hughes said. “It’s our first AVP of the year. We want to bring it and be aggressive every match. So far it’s working out.”

To say the least. 

Cheng, who won this event last year with Betsi Flint, and Hughes paired late last season. They were the winningest all-time teammates at USC and started their pro careers together before going separate ways.

“Every day Kelly and I are learning and getting better. Obviously we’re still a new team together,” she said with a laugh. “I know and obviously there’s great chemistry, but we really are a new team and figuring out the little things.”

Kloth and Nuss, the former LSU teammates, opened with a 21-16, 19-21, 1-5-8 win over Katie Horton and Brooke Bauer. Then they overpowered Sarah Sponcil — Cheng’s Olympic partner in Tokyo — and Terese Cannon — a USC teammate of Cheng and Hughes — 21-18, 21-13.

The crowds Friday were sparse, but — again if the weather holds — area beach and LSU fans normally come out to support TKN, as they’re called. Nuss is from Metairie, an adjacent town.

“Just some first-match jitters,” Kloth said. “And when you’re at home and there are so many people that are hyping you up all week long, we’re so excited. And we really do want to play well for them but I think there were a lot of pregame jitters. After we got through that we just kind of settled in.”

Even though TKN won, any time Nuss and Sponcil are on the sand together you can be assured of spectacular defense plays from the two. They simply get balls that others can’t and make plays that astound. They’ve had some epic battles the past year.

“It’s always fun playing against her and Terese,” Nuss said. “They’re great players and we know every time we step on the court, well, just say I’m surprised it didn’t go through. Every single time we play them it’s a battle back and forth. It’s always fun matching up with them.”

Earlier in the day, Sponcil — who won a national beach title at UCLA — and Cannon beat another Louisiana favorite, Toni Rodriguez (a teammate of Nuss’s and Kloth’s at LSU) and former UCLA standout Savvy Simo 23-21, 22-20. 

Rodriguez and Simo try to stay alive when they play Horton and Bauer in the contenders bracket.

In the other winners-bracket match Saturday, Canadian Olympian Sarah Pavan and Emily Stockman play Canadian Olympians Brandie Wilkerson and Pavan’s Tokyo teammate Melissa Humana-Paredes.

The men’s winners bracket shows top-seeded Olympians Tri Bourne and Chaim Schalk playing Paul Lotman (a 2012 USA indoor Olympian) and Silila Tucker and Tim Brewster and Kyle Friend playing Billy Allen and Troy Field. 

Bourne and Schalk didn’t lose a set, which included a 21-18, 21-9 victory over Logan Webber and Evan Cory, who is also from Metairie.

Evan Cory is dialed in/Rick Atwood photo

Among the men’s contenders-bracket matches, another indoor Olympian, David Lee, and Seain Cook play Ian Satterfield and Jake Urrutia and the legendary Phil Dalhausser and John Sutton play Andrew Dentler and Jacob Landel.

The men’s and women’s winners and contenders brackets can be seen here.

Volleyball World Saquarema Challenge

Three USA men’s teams got out of pool play in Brazil.

The No. 8 seed, Miles Partain and Andy Benesh, who made it through the qualifier and went 1-1 in pool play, face seventh-seeded Australians Thomas Hodges and Zachery Schubert.

Ninth-seeded Trevor Crabb and Theo Brunner, who went 1-1, play 12th-seeded Quentin Metral and Yves Haussener of Switzerland. 

The surprise team of Chase Budinger and Miles Evans play 21st-seeded Australian Christopher McHugh and Paul Burnett. Budinger and Evans, seeded 10th in the qualifier, made it through and then went 2-0 in pool play as the No. 17 seed, which included a 17-21, 21-19, 15-11 win over Partain and Benesh. They also got a win when Italians Daniele Lupo and Enrico Rossi forfeited.

With most of the top USA teams in New Orleans, just one American pair got into and then out of pool play. But Hailey Harward and Kelley Kolinske lost their first winners-bracket match to Poland’s Jagoda Gruszczynska and Aleksandra Wachowicz 25-23, 22-20. They split $2,500 for their efforts.

Click here for the results and schedule.

Jen Keddy with the kick-save attempt as Katie Lindstrom looks on/Stephen Burns photo


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