VIENNA, Austria — Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes wouldn’t mind it if the popular Facebook trend, Throwback Thursday, occurs for their next match.
That’s because the young Americans take on Germans Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst in the round of 16 in the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships in what is expected to be the hottest day of the year on the continent.
Last year, the kids beat the eventual Olympic gold-medalists in late July at FIVB Klagenfurt. And then last month, they beat them to win the bronze medal at the World Series of Beach Volleyball.
Claes and Hughes are just one of seven American pairs — four men’s — in action Thursday on the island in the Danube River.
Their match starts at 4:30 p.m. local time, 10:30 a.m. Eastern. At the same time, Brooke Sweat and Summer Ross play Kristyna Kolocova and Michala Kvaplilova of the Czech Republic.
In what has to a break considering the heat, four hours earlier, Lauren Fendrick and April Ross, who knocked out fellow Americans Nicole Branagh and Emily Day on Wednesday, play Barbora Hermannova and Marketa Slukova of the Czech Republic.
The men’s round of 32 begins Thursday, First up for the Americans are Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, who face Italians Alex Ranghieri and Adrian Carambula at 1:30.
At 2:30 Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb plays Australians McHugh and Schumann, followed by Ryan Doherty and John Hyden battling Janis Smedins and Aleksandrs Samoilovs of Latvia at 3:30.
USA action concludes at 5:30 when Casey Patterson and Theo Brunner play Clemens Doppler and Alexander Horst of Austria on center court, where you can imagine the place will be absolutely sold out and rocking for the home team.
Minutes after ousting Elsa Baquerizo and Amaranta Navarro of Spain 21-16, 21-18 on Wednesday, Claes and Hughes, faces flushed, regrouped and enjoyed a victory that guaranteed them no worse than a tie for ninth in the biggest beach tournament of the year.
“It’s hot out there,” Hughes said, “probably one of the hottest temperatures I’ve ever played in.”
And she smiled.
“But you know what, it doesn’t matter if it’s hot for us. It’s even hotter for the opponent. We’re just out here doing the best we can and fighting for every point.”
And they were as they held the upper hand throughout the sweep. Coach Jose Loiola said they spent a lot of time the past couple of days making adjustments, especially after dropping their last match of pool play, a three-set loss to Brazilians Maria Antonelli and Carolina Salgado.
“It felt really great. Like I said, we’re battling and playing together and that’s all that matters,” Hughes said.
The red-headed Claes joked that her cheeks “are always bright red. It comes with the hair.”
She had a strong match, bouncing back well after an off day.
“I think it was a mindset,” Claes said. “I don’t care what’s going on, I don’t care if I mess up on a point, the next one I’m going to come out harder. That last match that we lost, let’s say I made a mistake and I let it snowball and let it affect me too much. This game, I said it doesn’t matter, I don’t care, on to the next point. And I think that was a good mindset for me.”
Claes and Hughes are seeded 16th, while Ludwig and Walkenhorst are the fourth seed. They advanced with a 21-19, 21-14 win over Fan Wang and Yuan Yue of China.
Fifth-seeded Sweat and Ross had also lost their last match of pool play and lost the first set Wednesday to 38th-seeded Xinxin Wang and Chen Xue of China before snapping out of it and rolling to a 16-21, 21-12, 15-10 victory.
“It was a super-fun match and we got better throughout,” Ross said. “We started out a little slow and then we found our rhythm and it was awesome.”
Sweat gave a lot of credit to Ross swinging on the second ball and catching the Chinese off guard.
“They couldn’t stop the two ball,” Sweat said.
“We can’t wait to play our next game,” Ross said, adding that their preparation will include “watching Real Housewives all night and then we’ll be ready for tomorrow.”
Whatever works. The other Ross, April, and Fendrick, seeded 14th, had all they could handle against 25th-seeded compatriots Nicole Branagh and Emily Day before getting past them 10-21, 21-18, 15-10.
“We were trying to figure that out,” Ross said of the lopsided first-set loss. “A little bit of it was our warmup and we weren’t focused on being game ready when we got into the match and adding to that you’re playing a USA team, nobody’s cheering and we didn’t show up to go really hard.
“There was no energy. It just did not work in the first set. We were trying to change energy, adapt, it just took us a set to get going and that’s not acceptable. We’re going to get with our coaches and change it for the next one.”
Added Fendrick, “We stuck with it and didn’t get frustrated with the prior plays that didn’t go our way. We were going to make the adjustments because we always have done that really well.”
The men finished pool play on Wednesday and Doherty and Hyden crushed Luis Garcia and Andy Leonardo Guatemala 21-7, 21-11 to finish 2-1 and guarantee a spot in the round of 32.
“We’re happy with how we’ve played so far and hopefully we can keep this going,” Doherty said.
At the same time, Dalhausser and Lucena were beating Kacper Kujawiak and Mariusz Prudel of Poland 21-12, 21-19 to win that same pool at 3-0.
“It was a tough pool, so I’m happy to come out first,” Lucena said.
Brunner and Patterson finished pool play 2-1 after losing to Guto Carvalhaes and Pedro Solberg of Brazil 16-21, 21-17, 15-7.