Seeds were obviously just a suggestion for the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships in Rome.

To wit, 19th-seeded Americans Theo Brunner and Chaim Schalk stunned third-seeded Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen of the Netherlands on Friday and are into Saturday’s semifinals. 

They’ll play 12th-seeded Brazilians Vitor Felipe and Renato Lima. In the other semifinal, eighth-seeded Norwegian Olympic gold-medalists Anders Mol and Christian Sorum will play fifth-seeded Brazilians Andre Loyola and George Wanderly.

The only USA team left on the women’s side, sixth-seeded Sara Hughes and Kelley Kolinske, were knocked out by 22nd-seeded Joana Heidrich and Anouk Verge-Depre, the Swiss Olympic bronze medalists.

Heidrich and Verge-Depre will play second-seeded Brazilians Duda Lisboa and Ana Patricia Silva. In the other semifinal, 20th-seeded Canadians Brandie Wilkerson and Sophie Bukovec play 16th-seeded Germans Svenja Muller and Cinja Tillman.

Alexander Brouwer hits against Theo Brunner’s block/Volleyball World photo

The 37-year-old Brunner and 36-year-old Schalk formed their partnership in 2021. Brunner, the former UC Santa Barbara standout, has three AVP titles to his credit and one FIVB when he and Schalk won gold in a tournament in Rwanda in 2021. Schalk, a Canadian Olympian in 2016, has dual citizenship and is married to American beach player Lane Carico. He has one AVP and that one FIVB title on his resume.

They beat the Dutch 21-16, 16-21, 15-12, coming out strong in the first set. In the third, they saw a 10-6 lead shrink to 10-9 before pulling away and winning on a service error.

In this tournament, they went 2-1 in pool play. In the round of 32, they beat an Austrian pair in three after losing the first set, then in the round of 16 had to go three again to beat a team from Poland.

They are guaranteed at least $28,000.

Hughes and Kolinske took home $18,000 after tying for fifth. They lost to the Swiss 21-17, 21-18. 

Wilkerson and Bukovec cruised past the 43rd-seed Italian pair of Valentina Gottardi and Marta Menegatti 21-15, 21-12.

Brandie Wilkerson hits a shot on the run/Volleyball World photo


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