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Kristen Nuss, Taryn Kloth having all of the fun with two sweeps in Paris Elite16

There was a time, not all that long ago, when it was something of a pleasant surprise if Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth were to upset Australians Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho. In May of 2022, Nuss and Kloth were playing in just their second career Challenge event, this one in Kusadasi, Turkey. As they had done in their prior Challenge, in Itapema, Brazil, they qualified, only this time they kept on winning.

They swept their way to the finals in Kusadasi where, it could have been assumed — and was — that the Cinderella run would come to an end in the gold medal match against the 2021 Olympic silver medalists. Only the strangest thing happened: It didn’t. Nuss and Kloth won, 21-12, 17-21, 17-15 in what was then viewed as a stunner, the plucky young rookies stumping one of the most decorated teams in the world.

Stunning upsets are no longer in the lexicon when it comes to Nuss and Kloth. Not when they win, anyway. Now, matchups against Artacho and Clancy are seen the other way around, with Nuss and Kloth, the current world No. 3, the favorites in the matchup against the world No. 6. It showed as much on Thursday at the Paris Elite16, when Nuss and Kloth swept the Aussies, 21-13, 21-19 for their second win of the day and fourth straight over Australia.

“I think we are just having fun out there,” Nuss said. “Things that we have been working on in practice are carrying over very well right now.”

It’s easy to have fun on days like Thursday. They began with a 21-13, 21-16 win over Italians Marta Menegatti and Valentina Gottardi, who have risen to No. 13 in the world. The evening was punctuated by their convincing win over Artacho and Clancy.

“I love playing with Kristen Nuss,” said Kloth, who, it should be noted, is also easy to be loved by her partner, with eight blocks against Italy and two more against Australia.

The wins assures Kloth and Nuss a spot in the weekend’s playoffs. Another over Terese Cannon and Megan Kraft on Friday would gift them a bye straight into the quarterfinals. As for Cannon and Kraft, their 0-2 record belies how well they played on Thursday, losing both matches to Italy and Australia in three sets (21-16, 16-21, 15-12; 18-21 25-23, 15-11, respectively). Should they beat Nuss and Kloth, they will be in a tie for the third spot in pool, which will come down to point differential.

Like Cannon and Kraft, Betsi Flint and Julia Scoles played the maximum number of sets on Thursday, going to three in both of their matches, against Brazil’s Ana Patricia Silva and Duda Lisboa, and Finnish qualifiers Niina Ahtiainen and Taru Lahti. They won the second (24-26, 21-13, 15-5) after nearly stunning the Brazilians again, falling 14-16 in the third. With Finland finishing day one 0-2, all Flint and Scoles need to break pool is either a win on Friday against Switzerland’s Nina Brunner and Tanja Huberli or a win from Ana Patricia and Duda over Finland.

Strangely enough, Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes also find themselves in a position to break pool, despite the fact that they have yet to play a single point. They were scheduled to play German qualifiers Laura Ludwig and Louisa Lippmann on Thursday but Germany forfeited, citing a shoulder injury, though they are likely to compete on Friday.

One win on Friday, then, against Cinja Tillman and Svenja Muller, or France’s Lezana Placette and Alexia Richard, will guarantee Cheng and Hughes to break pool.

Andy Benesh, Miles Partain fall to 0-2 in Paris Elite16

In a similar vein, one win is all that is required of Andy Benesh and Miles Partain on Friday — although one shot is all they have. The top seeds in the Paris Elite16, Partain and Benesh had one of their worst days of the 2023 season on Thursday, dropping both of their matches, against the Netherlands’ Stefan Boermans and Yorick de Groot (23-21, 22-20) and Brazil’s Evandro Goncalves and Arthur Mariano (21-18, 21-14). Fortunately for Benesh and Partain, Australian qualifiers Thomas Hodges and Zac Schubert also dropped both of their matches on Thursday, making their Friday morning matchup a win-and-in scenario.

All matches of the Paris Elite16 can be seen on VolleyballTV. Use “VOLLEYBALLMAG” for a discount.