FIVB Vienna: All four USA women’s team into winners bracket

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Brooke Sweat reaches for a high line shot/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

VIENNA, Austria — Things get even more serious Wednesday at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships as the women’s field, which started at 48 before pool play, moves into the 32-team winners bracket.

And that will include all four American pairs in the competition, but one will have to go. That’s because 14th-seeded April Ross and Lauren Fendrick (3-0) face 25th-seeded Nicole Branagh and Emily Day (2-1). The times were not set as of Tuesday afternoon.

Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes, seeded 16th and 2-1 after pool play, take on 23rd-seeded Elsa Baquerizo and Amaranta Navarro of Spain (2-1).

Summer Ross and Brooke Sweat, seeded fifth and 2-1 after pool play, go up against 38th-seeded Xinxin Wang and Chen Xue of China, who finished pool play 1-2 but got through nonetheless.

Taylor Crabb changes directions to dig a ball/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

While Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb lost on Tuesday, the other American men’s teams are back in action Wednesday.

Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena (2-0) face Mariusz Prudel and Kacper Kujawiak of Poland, while Ryan Doherty and John Hyden (1-1) take on winless Andy Leonardo and Luis Garcia of Guatemala. Both those Pool C matches are on the adjacent outside courts and start at 9:30 a.m. local time, 12:30 a.m. Pacific. A win would guarantee that Doherty and Hyden get out of the pool.

And Theo Brunner and Casey Patterson will be playing for placement in the winners bracket when they take on Guto Carvalhaes and Pedro Solberg of Brazil at 12:30 p.m. local time. Both pairs are 2-0 without losing a set.

In action Tuesday on the island in the Danube River on a bright, sunny and very hot day with the temperature hovering around 96, Branagh and  Day downed Austrians Katharina Holzer and Teresa Strauss 21-19, 21-11, while Ross and Sweat fell to Valtyna Davidova and Ievgeniia Shchypkova of the Ukraine 21-17, 16-21, 15-11.

Nicole Branagh chases a ball off the block/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

Branagh and Day won the first set narrowly at 21-19, ending it on a successful challenge on a line call. They had been expecting a battle.

“We watched their games and received a scouting report from coach Marcio (Sicoli),” Branagh said. “We knew that they were hitters, they come out strong, they’re playing well, they have a tough serve, we just really wanted to focus on our side and pass well. It got a little windy there, so we wanted to focus on our ball control and trying to put the ball in a good spot on the court.

“The first game went back and forth, they’re a good team, we were just trying to keep the pressure on.”

After that set, they decided to make some adjustments.

“We wanted to serve tougher,” Branagh said. “We’re happy with the victory and happy to move on.”

Day knew they needed to get better after the first set.

“In game one I wasn’t setting Nicole very well, and I improved on that in the second game.”

Sweat and Ross were disappointed in their play.

“It was all our side,” Sweat said. “It was so ugly. I can’t believe we went three with them, it was that bad. Our entire rhythm was off, we’re not going to win matches that way.”

“We know that if we take care of our side of the net, we can win, and we didn’t. We’re going to try to learn from this one, and regroup for playoffs.”

The only American on the sand on Tuesday were Gibb and Crabb, seeded 18th and coming off their win at AVP Hermosa Beach. And they dropped a tough one to seventh-seeded Poland’s Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak 21-17, 21-23, 18-16 despite earning the first matchpoint to finish pool play 2-1. Losiak was bombing topspin serves from the good side that challenged the Americans. In sets two and three, Gibb’s block was able to keep the Americans close.

“We turned it around in the second by handling their serve a little bit better,” Gibb said. “We finally started passing it. We really couldn’t handle it at first.”

There are a couple of other tough first-round winners-bracket matches of note, including seventh-seeded Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes against eighth-seeded Fernanda Alves and Barbara Seixes of Brazil, and third-seeded Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda Lisboa of Brazil against sixth-seeded Barbara Hermannova and Marketa Slukova of the Czech Republic.

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