LAS VEGAS — Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb are the lone Americans left at the FIVB/p1440 Las Vegas four-star Olympic qualification tournament.
Bourne and Crabb will face Russians Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy for the bronze medal at 9:05 a.m. Pacific Sunday with some intriguing foreign matches on tap for the other medals.
The men’s gold-medal match features a rematch of the recent World Tour Finals, as top-ranked Norway’s Christian Sorum and Anders Mol face Poland’s Grzegorz Fijalek and Michal Bryl at 11:35 a.m.
The women’s draw features Canada vs. Canada for gold and Brazil vs. Brazil for bronze.
Canadians Heather Bansley-Brandie Wilkerson plays Sarah Pavan-Melissa Humana-Paredes for gold at 1:07 p.m. Bansley and Pavan were partners in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Carolina Salgado-Maria Antonelli plays Ana Patricia Silva-Rebecca Cavalcanti for bronze at 10:20 a.m.
Sunday’s matches can be seen on the p1440 app and will be broadcast live on ESPN2 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern.
Saturday also marked the end of the tournament for a potentially exciting new American pair, former USC All-American Kelly Claes and current UCLA All-American Sarah Sponcil. They tied for ninth but are encouraged after another strong showing in just their second competition together.
“We’re going to make a run. It’s a long road ahead and I’m not really thinking about that,” Sponcil said. “Our goal is really to keep working together and keep getting better and I’m excited for how much better we can get.
“If this is what we can do with no practice, imagine what we can do if we actually practiced things we want to work on, and had time to do that. For sure it’s an aspiration, but right now I’m not focused on that , I’m focused on getting better with her.”
Bourne-Crabb began their Saturday with a straight-set win over Spain’s Pablo Herrera-Adrian Gavira (24-22, 21-18), but they lost to Sorum-Mol (21-17, 21-16).
“They’re the No. 1 team in the world for a reason,” Crabb said. “They side out really well, and their blocking is their biggest strength. They’ve got a big block up there in Anders, and Christian makes some really good moves on defense.
“If you can side out against them, you can side out against anybody. That was the difference in the end. They made some good blocks and reads and that was the difference-maker right there.”
Bourne and Crabb, an unusual combination of two blockers who split block together, have finished well this month despite that configuration, winning the opening Olympic qualification event, a three-star in Qinzhou.
“We needed to pass better. I was passing all over the place, which makes the approach not as good, and takes away your vision,” Crabb said. “If you can pass well, and get in a rhythm siding out, and just stay with them. We were scoring points against them, we just have to hang with them in the side out battle a little better and that’s how we can get it done.
Trevor’s brother, Taylor, and partner Jake Gibb also started with a win, defeating the Czech Republic’s Ondrej Perusic-David Schweiner (21-18,12-21, 15-13). They subsequently failed to get by the tough and very physical Krasilnikov-Stoyanovskiy. The 6-foot-9 Stoyanovskiy and 6-5 Krasilnikov knocked out the Americans in fifth place (15-21, 30-28, 15-13) with 480 points. Stoyanovskiy made a critical pair of consecutive blocks to take the lead at 10-9 in the third.
“They’re a big physical team,” Crabb said. “You have to match that to beat a physical team, and at the end, we got a little tentative, and that’s what gave them the edge.”
In the women’s draw, three teams started Saturday, with Betsi Flint and Emily Day in the quarters, and Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman and Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil in the round of 16.
Flint-Day, who upset Sara Hughes-Summer Ross in the last match of Friday, lost a three-set match to Brazil’s Silva-Cavalcanti (18-21, 21-18, 15-11). Silva-Cavalcanti have been playing well in the last two weekends, with a gold medal in the three-star Qinzhou event, and silver in the four-star Yangzhou event.
Flint and Day hung with the Brazilians until 8-7 in the third set, when the Brazilians took control.
“We need to side out a little better, but they made some good defensive moves,” Flint said. “Rebecca was digging a ton of balls, so they made us earn it, and they really played well in the third.”
Larsen-Stockman’s Saturday began with a win against Finns Taru Lahti-Anniina Parkinnen (21-13, 21-17), but their tournament was finished by Bansley-Wilkerson (25-23, 21-12). The Americans had three set points in the first, but couldn’t close, and the Canadians ran away with the second set.
“In the first set, we were down a lot,” Larsen said, “but had a big comeback. We had a lot of momentum going in, we had set points coming back, and we were playing pretty clean and lights-out.
“They took the first, which was a momentum-breaker, and in the second, they out-served us, we weren’t passing well, and it’s hard to run an offense if we’re not passing out best. They played really well, they played pretty clean, and it came down to serving and passing, especially in that second set.”
Larsen-Stockman finished ninth in Yangzhou, and fifth in the NORCECA continental final in Boca Chica this month.
“This is our last tournament this year for us,” Larsen said. “We’re going to take some time off, and have a little pre-season before we go into 2019.”
Claes-Sponcil, who finished ninth with 400 points, lost their round of 16 match to Brazil’s Antonelli-Salgado, extending the Brazilians to a third set (18-21, 21-15, 15-11). Salgado and Antonelli’s defense made their move with a four-point run to reach 12-8 in the third, and that lead would not be relinquished.
Las Vegas is the new pair’s second event, with a third-place finish in Qinzhou two weeks ago. Sponcil, currently a senior at defending NCAA-champion UCLA.
“We’re a new team,” Sponcil said, “So we’re just trying to learn each new match, just learning the game and staying together. It’s easy to pull apart when things aren’t going right, I think we held it together and just tried to keep the momentum and energy, and focus on our side.
“I’m excited, and it was a tough loss, but it was fun. We have so much more to work on, and I think that’s the most exciting part, I love playing with her, I love her off the court too. I’m excited to train with her in the off-season.
Sponcil is spreading herself thin, between life as a full time student, continuing her beach career with UCLA, and she has Olympic aspirations as well.
“I’ve been practicing with UCLA a month, since we started school, and I try to practice with Kelly as much as I can, but we haven’t been able to practice together since after China. We went into this tournament with, ‘Let’s just work it out,’ and I’m excited, if we get more practice, that’s going to help.”