HAMBURG, Germany — Americans went 5-0 Saturday at the 2019 FIVB World Beach Volleyball Championships.
Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb, Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb, Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil, Sara Hughes and Summer Ross, and Alix Klineman and April Ross all won their first pool-play matches as the most important competition of the season completed its second day.
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Bourne, continuing his remarkable comeback from an illness that kept him out of all of 2017, and Trevor Crabb, seeded 13th, had to go three, however, to beat 36th-seeded Iranians Bahman Salemi and Arash Vakili, 13-21, 21-16, 15-9.
“We have to give them credit,” Bourne said. “They played really well and they made plays.
“We didn’t know what they were going to bring, so t ended up being really good, and then we started making plays …That’s what you have to expect at the World Champs.”
Salemi and Vakili were hard to scout.
“I think there was one video on the whole internet of them playing a match,” Crabb said. “We knew that we had to take it point by point from the beginning, and try and figure them out in the first set.
“We didn’t play very well on our side in the first set, but we finally ended up figuring them out a little bit, making some plays on defense, and siding out a lot better in the second and third set. That was the key.”
Gibb and Taylor Crabb, seeded seventh, made short work of 42nd-seeded Marcos Cairus and Mauricio Vieyto of Uruguay, beating them 21-17, 21-13 in 29 minutes.
“We had a few individual goals that our coach set for us to push throughout the tournament,” Gibb said. “For me, it was focusing on my jump serve, so we’re trying to get that going, and just get the ball rolling. We just want to get the nervous energy out, and get out and play.”
Crabb reminded that it was his and Gibb’s first international in a while, “so it’s nice to be out there and get the feel for this kind of game and this atmosphere.
“We’re a consistent team, we don’t make a lot of errors, so we told ourselves ‘Let’s stick it out, and we’ll be fine by the end of the game.’”
Claes and Sponcil are seeded 16th and routed 33rd-seeded Russians Ekaterina Birlova and Evgeniya Ukolova 21-8, 21-16 in 28 minutes.
“It was fun,” Claes said. “I think we were a little nervous, it’s our first World Champs. We went out there, we played for each other, tried to stay simple, and were aggressive when we executed. There were a few crazy rallies, and we tried to stay simple in those.”
Hughes and Ross, seeded 11th, needed three to defeat Argentina’s 38th seeded Ana Gallay and Fernanda Pereyra 21-18, 15-21, 16-14.
Hughes and Ross accumulated a 14-9 lead in set three but had difficulty finishing as the persistent Argentinians closed to 14-all before Hughes and Ross closed it out. Hughes and Ross’ next opponent sis 35th-seeded Meimei Lin and Jinjin Zeng of China.
Fifth-seeded Klineman and Ross destroyed Valeria Mendoza and Lolette Rodriguez, the 44th seed from Nicaragua, 21-8, 21-7.
Ross said that their Nicaraguan opponents were difficult to scout, but that hardly mattered.
“We didn’t necessarily know what to expect,” Ross said. “We had one video on them, and we wanted to treat every match like it’s the finals, so we prepared as hard as we could, and played as hard as we could.
Their coach Jen Kessy, wanted to refine a few elements of their game.
“I wanted to work on my jump serve, get my jump serve going a little,” Ross said, “and I feel like I did that, and worked on a couple of hits that I wanted to get down.”
For Klineman, playing in her first Worlds, it was important to get comfortable.
“A big part of it was setting the tone, getting ready for the tournament we want to play, and our effort,” Klineman said.
“There were a couple of technical focuses. I thought our serving was really good and during the match we put a lot of pressure on them.
“I think it’s really exciting. Obviously it’s my first World Champs and it’s my first time in Hamburg. People seem really enthusiastic about volleyball and the turnout for first-round matches is really incredible, so I’m excited.
“I’m excited to play on center court, I’m excited to play against the best people in the world, and hopefully fight for some gold in the end.”
Center court in Rothenbaum stadium is especially impressive, seating 13,200.
“I think the center court atmosphere is pretty unmatched other than maybe the Olympics,” Ross said. “Vienna (in 2017) was awesome, but there’s something added for Hamburg. We can’t wait to get out there and play Germany on center court.”
That will happen in their third match, against Karla Borger and Julia Sude. Next up for Ross and Klineman is the Chinese pair of Xinxin Wang and Chen Xue.