HAMBURG, Germany — Kerri Walsh Jennings was beside herself after she and Brooke Sweat were eliminated Wednesday from the 2019 FIVB World Beach Championships.
“You know, this whole tournament has just been wrong, I feel like,” Walsh Jennings admitted. “This is a horrific thing to say, but it’s a relief it’s over, because we just couldn’t figure it out out there, and it’s the most disappointing event I’ve ever had, and I think Brooke will feel the same.”
But while Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman also lost, three other USA women’s pairs advanced to the round of 16, including Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil, who upset the top seeded Germans at that on their home sand.
“Just one point at a time,” said Sponcil, who just two months ago was playing for UCLA, “but after the match I looked around, and it was obviously the biggest crowd that I’ve ever played in, so now I know what it feels like.”
Also winning were Alix Klineman and April Ross, and Sara Hughes and Summer Ross, while Americans Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena stayed alive with a “lucky losers” victory to join three other USA pairs in the men’s round of 32.
Here is the women’s round of 16:
Marta Menegatti/Viktoria Orsi Toth Italy (24) vs. Kelly Claes/Sarah Sponcil United States (16)
Melissa Humana-Paredes/Sarah Pavan Canada (9) vs. Sanne Keizer/Madelein Meppelink Netherlands (8)
Karla Borger/Julia Sude Germany (20) vs. Fernanda Alves/Barbara Seixas Brazil (12)
Nina Betschart/Tanja Huberli Switzerland (17) vs. Rebecca Cavalcanti/Ana Patricia Silva Brazil (4)
Joana Heidrich/Anouk Verge-Depre Switzerland (27) vs. Mariafe Artacho/Taliqua Clancy Australia (7)
Svetlana Kholomina/Nadezda Makroguzova Russia (14) vs. Agatha Bednarczuk/Eduarda “Duda” Lisboa Brazil (6)
Joy Stubbe/Marleen Van Iersel Netherlands (31) vs. Sara Hughes/Summer Ross United States (11)
Alix Klineman/April Ross United States (5) vs. Tina Graudina/Anastasija Kravcenoka Latvia (26)
Start with Walsh Jennings, the three-time Olympic gold medalist. Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who were seeded 18th, have had a good season, but went 1-2 in pool play, got into the winners bracket, but then lost to sixth-seeded Brazilians Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda Lisboa 21-18, 21-16.
“Taking in the big picture, we’re playing so well, we’re prepared, we’re ready, we’re fired up, and then to get out here and play the worst you’ve played feels pretty terrible,” Walsh Jennings said. “It’s just one of those things you have to believe it’s for a reason.”
They will play plenty of other FIVB events this summer, including Gstaad, Tokyo, Vienna and Espinho.
“I think we just go and we train hard, and we watch film, and we just let this go,” Walsh Jennings said. “However we do that, that’s what we do.”
Conversely, Claes and Sponcil were giddy after the No. 16 seed knocked off Germans Sandra Ittlinger and Chantal Laboureur 19-21, 21-19, 15-10.
“Honestly, I was in shock, because the game, it was just crazy,” Sponcil said. “We were down 18-14 in the second, and the third went really fast.
“When we won, I was like, ‘What just happened?’, and obviously, I’m excited that we won, but I’m not excited with how I played, I’m ready to look at video and see what I need to change. I’m very excited, but I could do a lot better, and thank you Kelly for staying with me.”
In the third set, Claes said, “We stopped missing our serves. We were struggling a lot in the first, I think we were too aggressive with our serves and making too many errors, so keeping the ball in, and making them play, and Sarah had a little trouble siding out, so she lifted the ball to me to take care of business.”
Sara Hughes and Summer Ross, seeded 11th, also beat Germans on stadium court, getting past 34th-seeded Margareta Kozuch and Olympic gold-medalist Laura Ludwig 21-15, 21-12.
“I think Summer and I played really well,” Hughes said. “We went out there, we played together, we did our jobs. It was fun to get out there, especially with the German crowd.”
“It was a team effort,” Ross said. “You were digging, the block was working,
Hughes jumped in to say, “Summer was blocking great, it was easy for me to read on defense with her being big up there. It was really fun.”
Klineman and Ross, the fifth seed, grinded past 10th-seeded Brazlians Maria Antonelli and Carolina Salgado 21-15, 13-21, 15-11.
“That’s a really good win,” Ross said. “That’s a good Brazilian team. We did not take them lightly. I don’t think we can go forward, and be like, ‘Now we’re playing great,’ like we don’t have to prepare as hard.”
It sets up a battle of former USC stars when they face Latvians Tina Graudina and Anastasija Kravcenoka. Ross was an indoor great there, while Graudina and Abril Bustamante were the VolleyballMag.com national NCAA pair of the year.
“We prepared a lot, but I think the biggest thing today was our attitude, our resilience, our grit, and our determination to get the win even if things weren’t perfect,” Klineman said. “There’s really no fear on our side, I think we felt really free and aggressive, and that was the difference.”
Larsen and Stockman were seeded 15th and lost to the eighth-seeded Dutch pair of Sanne Keizer and Madelein Meppelink 21-17, 13-21, 15-13.
“We’ve improved a lot over the year,” Larsen said. “That’s what it comes down to, we’ve gotten better individually and as a team.”
Finally, Dalhausser and Lucena, who went 1-2 in pool play despite being seeded sixth, came away with a 21-15, 21-17 win over 34th-seeded Mexicans Lombardo Ontiveros and Juan Virgen.
“This is all clean slate,” Lucena said. “I literally don’t think we should have got out of pool. We got pretty fortunate that Canada helped us out yesterday by beating Argentina, so we have no pressure, so we’re just going to play a little loose, and hope to continue to play at that level.
“Someone’s going to have to play well to beat us. But there’s plenty of great teams on this world tour.”
Also in the men’s round of 32 are Americans Taylor Crabb and Jake Gibb, Billy Allen and Stafford Slick, and Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb. The men’s winners bracket: