Though they were unable to upset the No. 1 team in the world and prevent Bruno Oscar Schmidt and Alison Cerutti of Brazil from winning their fifth-consecutive FIVB World Tour gold, Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson put on a spectacular show on their way to taking silver at the Olsztyn Grand Slam in Poland.
After a slow, 1-2 start in pool play, defeating only fellow Americans Sean Rosenthal and Theo Brunner, Gibb and Patterson narrowly advanced to the elimination rounds. But once they were there, they turned it on, defeating Youssef Krou and Edouard Rowlandson of France, Grzegorz Fijalek and Mariusz Prudel of Poland, and countrymen Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena on their way to the semifinals.
There they met Jonathan Erdmmann and Kay Matysik of Germany and played a match that proved to be a test of endurance for both teams. Gibb and Patterson snuck away with the first set 30-28, dropped the second 19-21, and finally secured the win in a 15-10 tie-breaker. Their reward: a gold-medal matchup with Bruno and Alison who have lost only two matches in the past five events.
In the final, Bruno and Alison proved that the World’s Best designation still applies, as they dismantled Gibb and Patterson 21-10, 21-15.
The medal is Gibb and Patterson’s second of the 2015 season and it elevated them to No. 5 in the world. With their fifth consecutive gold medal, Bruno and Alison extended their lead over the No. 2-ranked Evandro Goncalves Oliveria Junior and Pedro Solberg, also of Brazil, to 1,000 points.
The women’s champions in Olsztyn, Larissa Franca and Talita Antunes, celebrated their second-consecutive gold medal, their fifth on tour this season and their ninth as partners. Against Madelein Meppelink and Marleen Van Iersel in the final, the Brazilians dominated the Dutch duo in the first set, holding Meppelink and Van Iersel to 12 points. The Dutch proved to be much more worthy opponents in the second, however, pushing the No. 1 team in the world to extra points before the Brazilians won 25-23.
Polish fans were delighted to have Monika Brzostek and Kinga Kolosinska competing for the bronze medal against Jantine van der Vlist and Sophie van Gestel of the Netherlands. The Poles, who came in as the No. 8 seed and were therefore heavily favored over the Dutch duo that had to qualify before entering the main draw, won the match 21-12, 21-16 with Kolosinska putting away some impressive blocks in both sets.
Top-ranked American women’s duo Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat faced a tough road in the tournament, as Sweat is still battling a shoulder injury she sustain early in the Long Beach Grand Slam. But even so, the duo advanced to the third round of elimination play and took a fifth after losing to the eventual bronze medalists from Poland. The finish helped elevate them to No. 10 in the world rankings.
Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross are also doing their best to move up the ranks, as a few missed tournaments have put them in the position of having to catch up. They finished fifth in Olsztyn, losing to van Gestel and van der Vlist in three. This top-10 finish combined with their silver medal in Long Beach helped elevate them to No. 20 in the World Tour rankings.
This week, five American women’s teams (Kim DiCello and Kendra Van Zwieten, Jen Fopma and Brittany Hochevar, Heather McGuire and Amanda Dowdy, Summer Ross and Lane Carico, and Walsh Jennings and Ross) will travel to Brazil for the Rio Open. No American men will compete in Rio.