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November 29, 2023
August 19, 2023
Kristen Nuss has been through at least seven hurricanes in her 25 years living in Louisiana, and untold number of floods and storms that didn’t quite make it to hurricane category but carried devastating power nonetheless. She dealt with the madness of Katrina and, a month after that, Rita. In 2008 alone, she experienced Gustav and Ike. Nine years later, she was at ground zero as Harvey reared its head and delivered $125 billion of damage.
Finally, after 25 years, Nuss, unofficially the most hurricane-experienced player on the AVP Tour, gets to skip one.
Nuss and Taryn Kloth are not in California during this weekend’s AVP Manhattan Beach Open. They’re in Germany for the Hamburg Elite16, thousands of miles and an ocean away as Hurricane Hilary makes her way up the coast of Mexico. So while the two might have some FOMO over skipping the Manhattan Beach Open, annually the biggest event on the AVP calendar, there is no such FOMO of finally skipping out on a hurricane.
“Heck no,” Nuss said.
“I’ve done one hurricane and I legit cried after we evacuated because I thought we were going to come back to nothing,” said Kloth, a South Dakota native who came back to plenty. “The Nuss family was unphased.”
For that matter: Is there anything that can phase a Kristen Nuss?
If Katrina and Rita and Harvey and Gustav couldn’t do it, surely a different type of storm, this one of the metaphorical sort, could, one that goes by the name of Laura Ludwig.
Nuss cites two role models when it comes to her beach volleyball career: Misty May-Treanor and Laura Ludwig. They’re World Champions and Olympic gold medalists both. Two of the greatest defenders of all time and also two of the most beloved, well-respected players in the game, players who share Nuss’ diminutive frame (no player in that triumvirate stands taller than 5-foot-10).
How’d Nuss respond when she alas got to play Ludwig for the first time, in Germany, no less, during Saturday’s quarterfinals of the Hamburg Elite16?
Unphased. Per usual.
“As Kristen and I were strolling down the streets of Hamburg, we were checking in on our pregame thoughts as we always do. I could tell Kristen was stoked to play Ludwig but she also recognized that special moment that she was going share the court with the best of the best defenders,” Kloth said. “It was a very cool moment to see up close and the mutual respect they have for each other is so special.”
The matchup between one of the best defenders of all-time and one who is currently making a case for one of the best in the world delivered in a 13-21, 21-15-15-11 win for Nuss and Kloth.
“Getting to share the court with Laura and in Germany of all places was very surreal for me,” Nuss said. “Just really special.”
On Sunday, they will share a court with a different German team in Cinja Tillman and Svenja Muller, the 4 seed who swept both France (21-19, 21-15) and Canada’s Melissa Humana-Paredes and Brandie Wilkerson (22-20, 21-10) on Saturday. The other semi-final is an all-Brazilian one, between world No. 1 Ana Patricia Silva and Duda Lisboa, and Olympic rankings leaders Barbara Seixas and Carol Salgado, who swept Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes (21-17, 21-15) in the quarterfinals.
Regardless of how Sunday goes for Nuss and Kloth, they will take Cheng and Hughes’ spot at the top of the Olympic rankings for the USA.
Regardless of how this weekend went at all for Miles Partain and Andy Benesh, they were assured of extending their lead in the USA Olympic rankings. As every weekend has gone in the previous four months for the young Americans, their weekend in Hamburg went well.
Three straight wins in pool play — over Alex Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen, Adrian Carambula and Alex Ranghieri, and Pablo Herrera and Adrian Gavira — earned Benesh and Partain a bye into Saturday’s quarterfinals. That set up one of the most-anticipated matches on the Beach Pro Tour: Partain and Benesh vs. Sweden’s David Ahman and Jonatan Hellvig, two of the brightest young teams in the world with a similar style of play, featuring jump-sets and spread offenses and a youthful exuberance for the game.
The first meeting between the two, in the Ostrava Elite16 in early June, was a short-lived one. Hellvig injured his hand at the end of the first set — won 21-18 by Benesh and Partain — and the Swedes have sat out since, returning for the first time last weekend at the European Championships, where they won a second consecutive gold medal.
The second meeting between the teams is what fans expected: A creative, entertaining, three-set battle that would go the way of Sweden, 20-22, 21-16, 15-11.
Hamburg marks the first tournament since the Itapema Challenge in April that Benesh and Partain will not be competing for a medal. They entered this tournament with three straight podiums — bronze in Ostrava, gold in Gstaad, silver in Montreal — and while that streak has come to an end, they have finished in the top five in every tournament this season and have extended their lead in the Olympic rankings even further, adding another 760 points of cushion to what was already a well-cushioned lead.
Ahman and Hellvig will play Brazil’s George and Andre in the semifinals. The other semifinal features Norway’s Anders Mol and Christian Sorum and Italy’s Sam Cottafava and Paolo Nicolai, who have seemed to found their stride after a mid-season malaise.