Claes, the former USC star, and Sponcil, the UCLA standout, were on a hot streak coming into Gstaad, having won 12 consecutive matches in the four-star FIVB Sochi and Ostrava events, the latter when they won the tournament and clinched their Olympic spot.
Claes and Sponcil, the only one of the four USA pairs headed to Tokyo that competed, split their pool matches this week. They beat Switzerland’s Esmee Bobner and Zoe Verge-Depre (21-13, 21-8) but failed to secure the bye with a tough loss to Brazil’s Carolina Salgado and Barbara Seixas (21-18, 28-30, 16-14).
Friday, Claes and Sponcil advanced to the second round of elimination with a win over Finland’s Riikka Lehtonen and Niina Ahtianen (21-13, 21-17). But then they ran into another USC standout in Latvian Olympians Tina Graudina and Anastasija Kravcenoka, who came away with a 21-19, 21-14 victory.
Kolinske and Stockman fell to Brazil’s Ana Patricia Silva and Rebecca Cavalcanti (21-16, 21-13).
Thus far the Brazilian women have dominated, placing three teams in the quarterfinals — second-seeded Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda Lisboa, sixth-seeded Silva and Cavalcanti, and 13th-seeded Carolina Salgado and Barbara Seixas, who came through the qualifier.
Saturday’s women’s quarterfinals (all times Eastern):
4 a.m. — Kinga Wojtasik and Katarzyna Kociolek (Poland) vs. Kravcenoka and Graudina (Latvia)
5 a.m. — Silva and Cavalcanti (Brazil) vs. Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson (Canada)
9 a.m. — Bednarczuk and Lisboa (Brazil) vs. Tanja Huberli and Nina Betschart (Switzerland)
10 a.m. — Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes (Canada) vs. Salgado and Seixas (Brazil)
On the men’s side, the Russians have two teams in the semifinals, guaranteeing them a medal. 2019 World Champions Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy upset top-seeded Norwegians Anders Mol and Christian Sorum (21-16, 21-19). Their compatriots Nikita Liamin and Taras Myskiv came through the qualifier, defeating Poland’s Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak (13-21, 21-10, 15-11).
Saturday’s men’s semifinals:
7 a.m. — Krasilnikov and Stoyanovsky (Russia) vs. Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan (Qatar)
8 a.m. — Liamin and Myskiv (Russia) vs. Stefan Boermans and Yorick de Groot (Netherlands)