With continued success on Friday, all four American women’s pairs won their pools at the FIVB Four Star in Tokyo.
Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil did so in the most impressive fashion, downing reigning world champs and tournament No. 2 seed Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan of Canada 21-14, 21-18.
No. 1 seed Alix Klineman and April Ross also had to play a Canadian team for first place in their pool, and the Americans secured the win over No. 12 Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson 21-14, 15-21, 16-14.
With temperatures reaching into the mid-90s in Tokyo, playing two three-set matches in pool was not ideal for Klineman and Ross.
“Ugly couple of days here in Tokyo for me personally, very grateful to have @aprilrossbeach by my side picking up the slack and grinding through with me,” Klineman posted on Instagram.
“Somehow came out of pool 3-0, playoffs start tomorrow with 3 single elimination games in one day. Send some positive and cooling vibes pleaseeee.”
No. 10 seed Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman also pulled off a big upset in their final pool play match, getting past No. 3 seed and No. 2-ranked team in the world Rebecca Cavalcanti and Ana Patricia Silva of Brazil 23-25, 21-19, 15-7.
Finally, Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat completed their stroll to the top of Pool F without losing a set, casting aside Miki Ishii and Megumi Murakami of Japan 21-19, 21-15.
“It was a good day here in Tokyo,” Walsh Jennings posted on Instagram. “Onward to the next with heart and fire.”
The 16-team women’s elimination bracket will begin on Saturday (late Friday evening in the U.S.). One interesting first-round match to keep an eye on is Humana-Paredes/Pavan versus Rebecca/Ana Patricia, a mind-boggling No. 2 versus No. 3 in the first round, made possible by those two aforementioned upsets by USA teams.
Men’s elimination play has already started, with only Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb and Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena among the American men’s contingent to emerge out of pool play. Both teams then went on to win their first-round matches.
No. 12-seeded Dalhausser and Lucena matched up with Quincy Aye and Arnaud Gauthier-Rat of France in the first elimination round, winning in dominant fashion 21-12, 21-11. Bourne and Crabb, seeded seventh, dismissed Germany’s Philipp Bergmann and Yannick Harms 21-16, 21-11.
If both remaining American teams win their quarterfinal matches—versus Norway’s Anders Mol and Christian Sorum for Bourne and Crabb and Brouwer and Meeuwsen of the Netherlands for Dalhausser and Lucena—they would face each other in the semis.
Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb lost to Brazilians Bruno Oscar Schmidt and Evandro Goncalves in their final pool play match (13-21, 21-13, 15-12), ending their Tokyo appearance with an 0-3 record. Theo Brunner and Reid Priddy suffered the same fate after a 18-21, 21-19, 15-12 loss to Julian Horl and Tobias Winter of Austria in Pool A.