Americans Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman ultimately didn’t win gold, but the pair certainly got the beach volleyball world’s attention this week by reaching the final of the four-star FIVB Warsaw.
They lost in Saturday’s title match to fifth-seeded Australians Mariafe Artacho and Taliqua Clancy 22-20, 21-17, after earlier beating second-seeded Brazilians Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda Lisboa 21-11, 21-19.
It capped an incredible 6-1 week in Poland for the 11th-seeded USA pair, who took home $16,000 for their best finish together. That included winning a country-quota match and and qualifier-bracket match before going 2-0 in pool play. And then in winners-bracket action, they upset the No. 3 seed, compatriots Alix Klinem and April Ross to get to the semis.
Bednarczuk and Lisboa took the bronze medal by beating compatriots Maria Antonelli and Carolina Salgado 23-21, 21-16.
Sunday’s men’s semifinals are set with Anders Mol and Christian Sorum — going for their fourth FIVB title in a row — facing Russians Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy, and Brazilians Evandro Goncalves and Bruno Oscar Schmidt playing Russians Ilya Leshukov and Konstantin Semenov.
“Australia is a great team,” the USA pair told the FIVB, which did not specify in its news release which player was quoted. “They played really well. There are several things we could have cleaned up and done better in the final, but there is always room for improvement. Overall it was an awesome tournament for us. We learned a lot and we are super grateful for this opportunity.”.
Larsen and Stockman nosed ahead of the Australians in the first set, up 7-1, and still led 16-13 on an Artacho hitting error and a Larsen block. They served for the set at 20-18, but a strong Australian side out followed by an aggressive Australian serve brought the score to 20-all.
Artacho then took over the set with a short serve to Stockman that was a near ace, followed by a deep corner serve to Larsen that flipped the set to the Australians.
The second set was won by the Aussie’s serve, generating a nearly insurmountable 20-14 lead. The medal is the Australians’ third for 2019, following a bronze in Xiamen and a silver in Jinjiang.
Larsen, 27, played at Pepperdine, and has competed on the world tour since 2015, primarily with Betsi Flint. She earned her first domestic win at AVP San Francisco in 2017.
The 31-year-old Stockman, a standout at Wichita State, has competed professionally since 2009, and has competed on the world tour since 2014, winning the one-star Langkawi event in 2017.