There’s a pink bracelet that dangles around the left wrist of Kristen Nuss. Inscribed in it is a single word:
Such is the maxim of Nuss and Taryn Kloth. It’s the word that has been the bedrock of their partnership since they began playing together during those strange COVID times, hunting down any local tournament they could.
Once told by anyone asked, and many who weren’t, that, because of the points system, and the fact that they had none, they’d need to split up in order to compete on the Beach Pro Tour. But they trusted that if they stuck together it would all work out in the end. After the Tokyo Olympic Games, when both defender and blocker received calls from other players around the country, asking them to switch partners, they trusted in their team. Unicorns in Louisiana in an almost exclusively California sport, they trusted in their location, in their coach, Drew Hamilton, in their vision and what they are so uniquely creating, a world-class team in the Bayou.
How’s it working out for them, that trust?
Another gold medal dangling around their necks, their second of this young 2023 season.
“It’s just trust our team, trust our training,” Nuss said after a 16-21, 24-22, 15-13 gold-medal match win over Australia’s Mariafe Artacho and Taliqua Clancy. “We play back in Louisiana in this heat, the humidity, we felt like we were back at home in practice. That was exactly what I was thinking: Trust in Taryn, trust in our team.”
At the Volleyball World Uberlandia Elite16 in Brazil, they trusted in spite of a flat opener, an 18-21, 17-21 dud against Brazil’s Ana Patricia Silva and Duda Lisboa. Trusted in the work they have continued putting in on their own in Louisiana. Trusted in their practice partners. While their rivals in California are training against the top teams in the country, Nuss and Kloth have faith that a pair of teenagers named Ava and Anna Koehl are still the best ones to prep them against Olympic gold medalists and World Champions. There is no arguing the results.
Nuss and Kloth rallied for five consecutive sweeps in Uberlandia, including dominant performances over Americans Betsi Flint and Julia Scoles (21-13, 21-12), Terese Cannon and Sarah Sponcil (21-14, 21-11) and Sara Hughes and Kelly Cheng (21-17, 21-11).
Their semifinal victory over Hughes and Cheng — who would eventually finish fourth after getting swept by Ana Patricia and Duda — was their first in five times trying. Their victory over Artacho and Clancy ended a three-match skid to the Australians, a pair who has made eight consecutive semifinals on the Beach Pro Tour.
“You look at this entire tournament and there are so many great opponents no matter what country you’re playing, no matter what team you’re playing,” Kloth said.
They can be considered among those many great teams. They are now No. 2 in the Olympic ranks and will rise into the top five of the world rankings. Their gold in Uberlandia is their second this season, following a victory in the La Paz Challenge in mid-March.
“Drew Hamilton, our coach back at home,” Nuss said into the cameras following their win. “We couldn’t do anything without him.”
They couldn’t do any of this without a little pink bracelet, and a whole lot of trust.
(Look for our updated Olympic beach rankings Monday)
Ondrej Perusic, David Schweiner stun Anders Mol, Christian Sorum for Uberlandia Elite16 gold
Anyone following the numbers couldn’t help but wonder: When would Ondrej Perusic and David Schweiner alas ditch whatever finals monkey was on their back and win a long (long)-awaited gold medal?
Six times had they played for gold in a four-star or higher since their last victory. Six times had they lost. They had lost in every way imaginable — heartbreak at home in Ostrava (twice), a thriller in the World Tour Finals, comeback thwarted in Itapema, upset in Gstaad, whipped in the European Championships. It seemed a matter of time until they’d win. How long, after all, can one reasonably keep a team as talented as the Czechs from alas winning their elusive gold?
Few would have guessed that time would have come on Sunday afternoon in Uberlandia. There, after a pair of critical wins over Sweden’s David Ahman and Jonatan Hellvig and Poland’s Bartosz Losiak and Michal Bryl, they’d match up with the indomitable Beach Volley Vikings of Norway. In nine matches against Anders Mol and Christian Sorum, only once had Perusic and Schweiner won. While six of those previous nine matches had gone to three, the win had eluded them time and time again.
It seemed it would once more. After splitting the opening two sets, Norway jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the third. A three-point deficit to the most effective closers in beach volleyball is, to most, a death sentence. Such was not the case for Perusic and Schweiner. Not on Sunday, anyway. They rebounded, going on a scintillating 14-7 run to win the final, 21-19, 15-21, 15-11, claiming their first Elite16 gold medal.
“We’ve played the guys many times we’ve lost the last eight or nine matches,” Perusic said afterwards. “It must have been the atmosphere that helped us win in the end.”
Finishing in bronze was Losiak and Bryl, who fended off the new Dutch duo of Matthew Immers and Steven van de Velde.