They beat fellow Americans Kelly Reeves and Terese Cannon 21-13, 21-16 on Sunday to win the two-star FIVB Cambodia gold medal in Siem Reap. Hughes and Fendrick won $4,000 and 400 points. Reeves and Cannon take home $3,000 and 360 points.
In the bronze-medal match, Japan’s Yurika Sakaguchi and Chiyo Suzuki swept Denmark’s Cecilie Køllner Olsen and Sofia Nørager Bisgaard 21-18. 21-18.
In the semifinals, Reeves and Cannon beat Denmark 21-15, 21-13, and Hughes and Fendrick got past the Japanese pair 21-18, 13-21, 16-14.
What it means
In order to qualify for the Olympics, Hughes and Fendrick must accumulate 12 FIVB results together before June 15 and be one of the USA’s top two teams. Our detailed primer on qualifying is here.
The current FIVB calendar contains one five-star event (Rome), seven four-star events (Cancun, Yangzhou, Siming, Itapema, Ostrava, Warsaw, Moscow, and Espinho), three three-star events (Coolangatta Beach, Jurmala, and Jinjiang), one two-star (this weekend’s Siem Reap, not reflected in the listed standings), and five one-star events (Guam Beach, Langkawi, Satun, Tuan Chau Island, and Miguel Pereira), so the pair will certainly rack up the frequent flier miles.
1. Alix Klineman-April Ross: 8,760 points, 12 events, 730 points/tournament
2. Kerri Walsh Jennings-Brooke Sweat: 19 events, 6,960 points, 580 points/tournament
3. Sarah Sponcil-Kelly Claes: 15 events, 6,640 points, 553 points/tournament
4. Kelley Larsen-Emily Stockman: 15 events, 6,080 points, 507 points/tournament
The FIVB point system emphasizes four- and five-star events. For example, a four-star awards 800 points for first, 720 for second, 640 for third, 560 for fourth, and 480 for fifth. A five-star awards 1,200 for 1st, 1,080 for second, 960 for third, 840 for fourth, 720 for fifth, and 600 for ninth.
Hughes’ and Fendrick’s 400-point win in Siem Reap is important in that it counts towards their 12-event minimum, but it is 180 points below the average finish of Walsh Jennings-Sweat, the current USA second team. All the teams need thirds or better at four-stars, and ninths or better at five-stars to gain ground on Walsh Jennings-Sweat.
There are 12 scheduled FIVB events at two-stars and above, so the goal for Hughes and Fendrick is attainable, assuming that none of the events are cancelled. A four- or five-star medal would take them a long way.
With the paucity of five-star events, all signs point to the final Olympic qualification event, the Rome five-star, where it is likely that the USA’s aspiring Olympians will either seal the deal or fall short June 10-14.