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FIVB Ostrava: Claes-Sponcil go back-to-back with sweep in gold-medal match

Americans Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil established themselves as the team to beat heading into the Tokyo Olympics with a sweep Sunday to win the FIVB four-star gold in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

Claes and Sponcil, seeded ninth, beat third-seeded Anouk Verge-Depre and Joana Heidrich of Switzerland, the European champions, 21-18, 21-15 for their second FIVB four-star gold medal in as many weekends. Last week the Americans won FIVB Sochi.

Claes, the 25-year-old who starred at USC, and the 24-year-old Sponcil, also a national champion at UCLA, stormed into the second USA Olympic spot in Sochi and then clinched the berth in Ostrava when Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat were eliminated earlier in the week.

The other USA team going to the Olympics, April Ross and Alix Klineman forfeited their quarterfinal match on Saturday.

This time Claes-Sponcil dominated Verge-Depre and Heidrich. They and the Swiss split their previous two matches. The Americans won in pool play in the Vienna five-star Major in 2019, while Verge-Depre and Heidrich won later that summer in a four-star Moscow in the third round of the winners bracket.

In the men’s gold-medal match, top-seeded Czechs Ondrej Perusic and David Schweiner were upset by Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen, the 22nd-seeded pair from the Netherlands, 13-21, 21-19, 15-13.

In the bronze-medal matches, the winners were Brazilians in a pair of upsets.

The women’s medal went to Barbara Seixas and Carolina Salgado, the 19th-seeds who beat second-seeded Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes 21-15, 21-15.

The men’s bronze went to 19th-seeded Brazilians Andre Loyola and George Wanderley, who won a tough 27-25 first set before clinching 21-18 over the fourth-seeded Russian pair of Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyansky.