VIENNA, Austria — The USA went 3-for-7 Thursday in the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships, a good number if you’re hitting a baseball or taking a 3-pointer, but not what the contingent had hoped for as the tournament got closer to the medal rounds.
Still alive Friday are fifth-seeded Summer Ross and Brooke Sweat and 14th-seeded April Ross and Lauren Fendrick in the women’s quarterfinals, while third-seeded Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena advanced to the men’s round of 16.
Those eliminated Thursday from the island in the Danube River: Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes, Theo Brunner and Casey Patterson, Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb and Ryan Doherty and John Hyden.
Summer Ross and Sweat, who got past 13th-seeded Kristyna Kolocova and Michala Kvapilova of the Czech Republic 17-21, 22-20, 15-12, take on Germans Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst. Ludwig and Walkenhorst, the defending Olympic champions and seeded fourth here, ousted Claes and Hughes 21-16, 21-16. That match starts at noon local time (6 a.m. Eastern). It will take place on one of the two side courts, which, considering the fervor in the main stadium when a local team plays — the crowd would likely root for the Germans — is probably best for the Americans.
April Ross and Fendrick continued to battle from behind in this tournament. They beat sixth-seeded Barbora Hermannova and Marketa Slukova of the Czech Republic 19-21, 23-21, 15-9. In the quarters, they get one of two Canadian pairs left (Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan is the other) when they play 15th-seeded Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson at 1 p.m, also on a side court.
And Dalhausser and Lucena moved on with a 21-18, 21-17 victory over Adrian Carambula and Alex Ranghieri of Italy, which propelled them into Friday’s match against 35th-seeded Christopher McHugh and Damien Schumann of Australia at 3 p.m. in the main stadium. The Aussies knocked out Gibb and Crabb 21-19, 28-26 with the second set as feisty as the score would indicate.
Fendrick went on a blocking tear in the third set of their match, including two stuffs to end it.
“That felt good. I think I was playing a little bit looser and free and that’s the best way to play,” Fendrick said. “That’s where I’m always trying to get. It’s easy to celebrate those points when you’re loose and athletic and things go your way.”
Fendrick said she realized she had to help their side-out game.
“I knew we were scoring points,” Fendrick said, “I knew we could do that. I knew we had to side out. That was my focus the whole time, just staying steady with the side out.
“I knew the points would come, I knew we would have to get creative with how we scored points against them.”
Claes and Hughes tied for ninth, a remarkable finish for the recent college graduates who had beaten Ludwig and Walkenhorst the last two times they played, most recently last month at World Series of Beach Volleyball.
“They played a near-perfect game and we didn’t,” Hughes said.
“They had nothing to lose and they’re playing amazing,” veteran Ludwig said of her young opponents. “They look so relaxed when they play. This time we definitely wanted to be more aggressive and that was the key in this match.”
Ludwig, 31, is 10 years older than Claes. Hughes is 22.
“I was quite the same,” Ludwig said. “I love watching them and they’re dancing a lot, I like that. And they’re really focused as well and really strong on the court. It’s amazing that they made to the round of 16 and they’re really impressive.”
Dalhausser and Lucena improved to 6-0 against Ranghieri and Carambula, although four of those matches went to three sets.
“Alex is probably the most physical person on tour,” Lucena said.”Our game plan was just to keep Alex out of it, but I think he still had seven, and went on two a bunch, so we were fortunate to get some on Adrian.”
Brunner and Patterson had the misfortune of playing the home team in the cacophony of the main stadium. The crowd, remarkably loud when Austrians are not playing, is not to be believed when they are.
Accordingly, 12th-seeded Clemens Doppler and Alexander Horst Austria beat 17th-seeded Brunner and Patterson 18-21, 21-19, 15-10.
“We had an opportunity to go 19-all in set two, but instead it was 20-18,” Patterson said. “Those are the ones that you can’t miss, ever. Those are ones that teams get and you end up winning the set. And they’ve been leading the whole time and then you tie it at 19-all, and all of a sudden the momentum is on our side. Now the stress and anxiety is on them, and we’re more patient and relaxed. That was kind of a bummer play for us. That’s a tough one, I want that one back.”
Patterson had nothing but praise for the Austrians.
“They serve all over, relentlessly well. They don’t pick on one guy, they serve you off the court all around, and that’s how they get teams in trouble. Obviously, by the result in the first set, they didn’t serve very well,” he said.
“We got them out of system, and capitalized on our opportunities. The next two sets, we were struggling to find that.
“Their serves got us internally just thinking about siding out and making sure they don’t ace us, instead of siding out well and smooth, let’s focus on serving aggressive and causing them some stress instead of having the mentality flipped a bit, so you struggle a little bit to crawl back.
“That was kind of the mentality, after that first set, here and there we got some points, but they adjusted by having Clemens come into the middle, and setting him a distance off the net, it’s hard to run that down without going too early and showing theme going over angle instead of going over line.”
And that pro-Austrian crowd?
“I’m used to it.” Patterson said. “Ever since I started playing with Jake Gibb, the fans weren’t really on our side, because they always want the older guys, the veterans, to lose. It feels like Manhattan Beach, playing the Crabb brothers.”