April Ross and Alix Klineman, the lone Americans remaining, play for bronze Monday against Sanne Keizer and Madelein Meppelink of the Netherlands in the second of three FIVB 4-star tournaments at the Cancun Hub.
Top-seeded Norwegians Anders Mol and Christian Sorum play 10th-seeded Qataris Cherif Samba and Ahmed Tijan of Qatar for gold at 2:30 p.m. local (U.S. Central) in the Mexican resort city on the courts right by the water.
The women’s gold-medal match follows at 4 when Brazil’s top-seeded Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda “Duda” Lisboa play sixth-seeded Russians Svetlana Kholomina and Nadezda Makroguzova.
Ross-Klineman, the fourth-seed, play at 1 p.m. Action begins at noon Monday with fourth-seeded Brazilians Alison Cerutti and Alvaro Filho facing seventh-seeded Italians Adrian Carambula and Enrico Rossi for the men’s bronze.
Ross and Klineman split their matches Sunday, defeating China’s Fan Wang and Xinyi Xia (21-17, 17-21, 15-9), then falling to Russia’s Kholomina and Makroguzova in the semifinals (22-20, 21-18).
Against China, the Americans won the first handily as China served aggressively but missed their targets. The second set was a reversal as both Wang and Xia found their marks, putting Ross and Klineman into serve receive difficulties to win in the 10-mile-an-hour winds. In set three, Klineman took over at the net, imposing her presence and altering the Chinese offense, winning comfortably.
Russians Kholomina and Makroguzova are rising threats on the FIVB tour. Kholomina, a 23-year-old, 5-foot-9 defender, and Makroguzova, a 24-year-old, 6-foot blocker, are coming into their own. The pair already has a four-star gold from Espinho on their resume, and placed fifth at both Doha and in the first of the Cancun tournaments.
In the first set, the Americans held a narrow lead until Russia drew even at 10-all. Ross and Klineman had a number of opportunities to score real points, but were unable to capitalize.
At 20-all, Klineman netted on a tight transition set and Kholomina ended it with an ace.
In the second, both teams stayed close through 15-all. Makroguzova had two late blocks, the second that put her team up 19-16. Ultimately Kholomina hit a deep angle shot that Ross got her left arm on but couldn’t retrieve to end it.
Claes and Sponcil grabbed an 8-5 lead, but Keizer and Meppelink tied it at 8-8 as things began to go wrong for the Americans. A Sponcil high-line miss gave the Dutch their first lead at 10-9, a Claes on-two hit fell wide to make it 12-10, and a Schoon ace built the Dutch lead to 13-10. Stam’s dig and successful transition made it 14-10, a deficit from which Claes and Sponcil could not recover.
The Dutch went up 4-1 in the second set on Meppelink’s serve as two poor passes, a dribbler ace and a sideline ace put Claes and Sponcil in an early hole. They battled back, but it ended when Keizer landed a deep pokey inside the back line to finish.
While Ross and Klineman have the USA’s first Olympic berth locked up, the race for second continues. Claes and Sponcil’s fifth-place finish earned them 480 Olympic qualifying points, adding 80 to their total and replacing their 400-point finish in Las Vegas.
Claes and Sponcil trail Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat by 160 points and lead Emily Stockman and Kelley Kolinske by 480.