VIENNA, Austria — Three American pairs were in action Sunday at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships as Summer Ross and Brooke Sweat and April Ross and Lauren Fendrick improved to 2-0.
Monday, Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes will try to go 3-0 in pool play when they face Maria Antonelli and Carolina Solberg Salgado of Brazil at 1 p.m. local time. Vienna is six hours ahead of the Eastern time zone, nine hours ahead of Pacific.
Also Monday in Vienna, where the temperature is predicted to get to 90 degrees Fahrenheit with an eye on reaching 95 on Tuesday, five other USA teams are in action.
Play begins at 10 a.m. with Ross and Fendrick in action again, this time against Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy of Australia. Both teams are 2-0 so first in the pool is at stake.
Four men’s teams are in the sand on the island in the Danube River, starting at noon when Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb (1-0) face Paraguay’s Roger Battilana and Gregorio Godoy (0-1). At 2, Nick Lucena and Phil Dalhausser (1-0) take on Guatemalans Luis Garcia and Andy Leonardo (0-1), and then at 3, John Hyden and Ryan Doherty (0-1) try to bounce back against Poland’s Mariusz Prudel and Kacper Kujawiak (1-0).
Finally, Theo Brunner and Casey Patterson try to go 2-0 when they play South Africa’s Jamaine Naidoo and Leo Williams (0-1).
Summer Ross and Sweat defeated Tatyana Mashkova and Bakhtygul Samalikova of Kazakhstan 25-15, 25-23, while April Ross and Fendrick rolled past Nicole Laird and Jessyka Ngauamo of Australia 21-11, 21-18.
The only other American pair in action Sunday — all the men were off — lost, as Emily Day and Nicole Branagh were dropped in straight sets by top-seeded Brazilians Larissa Franca and Talita Antunes 21-15, 21-9. They are 1-1.
Ross and Sweat began serving the smaller Samalikova, who acquitted herself well. The Americans then switched to Mashkova and found success serving down her line. After reaching 12-all, a serving run by Ross earned them a 15-12 lead.
“We watched a little video,” Sweat said. “We knew we could test either one, but we decided to go after the right-sider first (Samalikova) and see if we could read her a little bit better. She was reading our defense and seeing her shots well, so we decided to try their left sider (Mashkova), and eventually we got her in some passing trouble. We actually found that we were able to read her better than their right-sider. It’s just one of those things. One of their players caught fire, and we had to switch it.”
In set two, Mashkova scored on some aggressive serves of her own with the Americans up 20-18.
“She got an incredible serve,” Ross said. “She’s a tall girl and it comes from a high point.”
Added Sweat, “We don’t see many serves like that. Unfortunately we let those two serves drop.”
Ross and Sweat play again Wednesday when they face Valentyna Davidova and Ievgeniia Shcykova of the Ukraine.
“We want to win our last match and put ourselves in a better spot in playoffs,” Sweat said. “I don’t think we can finish third now and third place might have to play a playoff game to get in. We just want to keep playing better and better each match. We’re trying not to think too much about the future, just take care of each point.”
April Ross and Fendrick also won handily over Australians Nicole Laird and Jessyka Ngauamo, mostly serving the taller Laird. Fendrick altered her block to keep the Australians guessing and scored several blocks. Ross, one of the toughest servers on the tour, kept the Australians off balance, who were never really in the match.
“A lot really good things happened today,” Fendrick said. “We’re working on a couple of things from our first match, serving was phenomenal, we got a great scouting report from our coach Jon Daze, I think we executed that pretty well.”
Fendrick and Ross are a new team for 2017, but have been limited by Ross’s well-documented toe injury.
“Serving for me was mostly mind focus,” Ross said. “It’s been tougher with my toe (Ross broke the first bone in her big toe at AVP San Francisco), so I’m kind of working back into it and definitely a big goal was to do it during World Champs. I’m not noticing it when I’m playing, it’s technically still broken, but it feels like it’s between 90 and 100 percent to me.”
“We had a little bit of a tough start with the injury, the fact that she’s been able to play through while healing is huge,” Fendrick said. “Every practice, every match we play together, it just continues to feel better together.”
Branagh and Day were dominated by Larissa and Talita, who demonstrated why they’ve been the top team on the world tour for years. The new team — Day was a last-minute replacement for Kerri Walsh Jennings — began by serving Larissa, who sided out with impunity, forcing the Americans to switch to serving Talita, who also sided out impeccably. Talita put together an impressive array of overhand digs while pulling off the net, never allowing the Americans to get their balance.
“They did everything well,” Branagh said. “They dug every hit we threw at them. They played very well, that was a perfect match for them. We gave everything we could, we tried everything we could and they just threw it right back at us. We’ll take the rest of the day off and regroup and focus on our next match against Austria, we have a good opportunity to win on that one.”
Next up for them is the wild-card team of Teresa Strauss and Katharina Holzer, an Austrian team who will pull plenty of hometown support. Branagh and Day must win Tuesday or a potential three-way tie for third may occur, and their game and point ratio were both impaired by Sunday’s loss.
“I think they’re a new team put together for the tournament, but they’re playing very well,” Branagh said. “We’ve watched their matches, they took a set off Larissa and Talita. They’re playing well and hitting hard. I know it’s going to be a tough match.”