One after another the American women were eliminated Friday from the FIVB World Tour Finals in Rome.
And the men?
When the day ended in Italy, only Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb were left to play on Saturday. They closed the day’s action with 21-16, 18-21, 15-9 victory over Quincy Aye and Arnaud Gauthier-Rat of France.
“That was a monkey off our backs,” Gibb said. “We’ve had nothing but ninths all year but that was huge for us. I feel like that monkey is off our backs and now we can go win this thing.”
They’ll play Spain’s Adrian Gavira and Pablo Herrera in the quarterfinals.
“We’ve played them quite a bit the last couple years,” Crabb said. “We know each other well and it’s going to be a battle. It will be a physical battle, too. They are strong guys, they hit the ball hard, great serves, and we’re ready for it.”
“Just nothing was very good today, everything was pretty mediocre,” Walsh Jennings said. “Our passing, our setting, our rhythm together, our defense … Clearly in the last two matches we haven’t played any defense and that’s really hard against the best teams in the world.
“We tried to work on our siding out and on taking care of our side of the net but they are a great team, they played very well and we made them look great today.”
Then the three other USA teams, which were all playing in the second round, were sent packing. Second-seeded Alix Klineman and April Ross lost to Barbora Hermannova and Marketa Slukova of the Czech Republic 21-13, 21-14.
“The season has been really great,” Ross said. “We had a lot of good finishes and it’s very sad to end it this way, but we did as much as we could do and we’re happy with our season.”
Then Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil were ousted in three by China’s Fan Wang and Xinyi Xia 21-16, 18-21, 16-14. Finally, Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman lost to Germans Margareta Kozuch and Laura Ludwig 16-21, 21-16, 15-12.
There were only two USA men’s teams left entering Friday and in the first round of the winners bracket Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena saw their tournament end at the hands of Italians Adrian Carambula and Enrico Rossi 19-21, 21-16, 15-12.
“I thought they played really well with their offense,” Lucena said. “We had some opportunities on the third, but we made like four mistakes. But hats off to them, they definitely gave us a lot of trouble by moving the ball around and deserved to win.”
“They played great. They did a lot of plays which assisted Enrico to side out. My head is still spinning from trying to figure out where they were going to set the ball, if they were going to set the ball or hit on two and where … It makes it tough for the blocker to run around like that. I couldn’t get set in a position and get up, but I felt that when I did it I was able to block well. That was only three times the whole match, though.”
So all but Gibb and Crabb were left looking for answers.
“It’s the last 5-star so you want to end the year on a good note and right now we’re sitting on our best finish. It feels good and we’re ready to keep it going.”
But teams like Walsh Jennings and Sweat, it was time reflect.
“We played good volleyball on country-quota, qualifier and the first round of pool play, but then, for the second round on, it just wasn’t as clean,” Sweat said. “It just wasn’t good volleyball and we were not on the same page, so it’s something for us to get back and figure out so it doesn’t happen again.
“We want to play our best at the end of the tournament and it went backwards, so that’s something we need to fix.”
Click here for the complete women’s results and schedule, courtesy of BVBinfo.com.
And click here for the men’s results and schedule.