The Tokyo Olympics beach volleyball quarterfinals are set and April Ross and Alix Klineman are the lone Americans left in the field.
For that matter, the A Team will compete on back-to-back days for the first time in the Games.
That’s because on Monday they opened play at Shiokaze Park with a round-of-16 sweep of Cubans Lidiannis Echeverria and Leila Martinez, and then Tuesday get things going again in what figures to be one of the showcase matches of the tournament.
Second-seeded Ross and Klineman play 18th-seeded Germans Laura Ludwig and Maggie Kozuch.
The other American pair heading into Monday, 10th-seeded Jake Gibb and Tri Bourne, saw their run end with a round-of-16 defeat to seventh-seeded Germans Julius Thole and Clemens Wickler 17-21, 21-15, 15-11.
“I’m done this year,” said Gibb, at 45 the oldest player in the field. “I may go home and play some AVP tournaments and I’m gonna go coach my kids’ soccer games.”
He said he’s done with international competition.
Said Wickler: “He’s a true legend of our sport, and I was very honored to play against him tonight.”
Here’s how quarterfinals look:
The women start play Tuesday morning with Ross-Klineman and the Germans kicking it off. Then Brazilians Ana Patricia Silva and Rebecca Cavalcanti play Switzerland’s Anouk Vérgé-Depre and Joana Heidrich.
Then they take a 12-hour break and come back in the night with Latvians Tina Graudina and Anastasija Kravcenoka playing Canadians Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson, before fellow Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes face Australia’s Mariafe Artacho and Taliqua Clancy.
The men have the day off.
ROSS-KLINEMAN — Ross, of course, won silver in 2012 in London with Jen Kessy and bronze in 2016 in Rio with Kerri Walsh Jennings. Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst won gold in Rio.
In this tournament, the A Team went 3-0 in pool play and then beat the Cubans 21-17, 21-15. Ludwig and Kozuch, who went 2-1 in pool play, took down third-seeded Brazilians Agatha Bednarczuk and Duda Lisboa 21-19, 19-21, 16-14.
While they are very familiar with the Germans, the Cubans were an unknown.
“They’re a team we’ve never seen before. We knew that they’re very good. It’s a little hard to know what to expect,” Ross said.
“Alix even said in between the two sets that we know they can play a lot better, so let’s be ready for that, and they came out in the second set, served really, really well. Luckily, we were able to adjust and handle that down the stretch. We knew we had to turn it up a little bit too. And we just continue to try and make it work for us.”
GIBB-BOURNE — “It was amazing, weird, emotional and sad, and exciting, and horrible, and the craziest three weeks in my life,” Gibb said.
Bourne, of course, was a late sub for Gibb’s usual partner, Taylor Crabb, who tested positive for COVID before the Games. Bourne’s regular partner is Crabb’s brother, Trevor. Gibb-Bourne, seeded 10th, won their first two pool matches and were the surprise of the tournament. Thole and Wickler are seeded No. 7.
“It was a crazy match, really tense,” Thole said. “Winning at the end against such great opponent, Jake, with such a great career. It’s unbelievable what he did and in the end we won and this makes us really proud.”
Earlier in the tournament, when he and Nick Lucena were eliminated, Phil Dalhausser said he was retiring from international competition, Gibb sounded a familiar refrain.
“I can’t really process it all right now, I wanna go home to my family and just sit for a while. It was crazy,” Gibb said. “This has been the hardest Olympics I’ve ever been in.
“I’m just trying to understand this. I’m sad that Taylor is not here with me. And I’m also proud of Tri for stepping in. But that was a journey that we went on together. Thanks to this guy (Bourne) for stepping in weird, weird circumstances and he just played some amazing balls.
“At the same time I went to this journey with Taylor and I’m just sad he’s not here with me right now.”
Said their coach, Rich Lambourne: “I loved how we fought. We went in with a game plan, the boys battled hard, executed and had our chances against one of the top teams in the world. Nothing but love and respect for what our ‘newly formed’ team was able to do, not only tonight but all tourney long.”
Bourne, whose comeback from an autoimmune disease is well documented, was grateful for the chance.
“Definitely crazy. For me I just feel lucky. Such a crazy time for them but a huge opportunity for me. I want to be respectful because they’ve inspired me. They’ve gone through a lot ,but they embraced me and gave me the opportunity to try to see what I could do on the biggest stage,” Bourne said.
“At the end of the match I was kind of sitting there to see how it felt and it kinda felt like the beginning for me. Which I guess is fitting since Jake’s decision. But there are a lot of guys that US has, that they need to step up, me included. And I’m ready to do it.”
Gibb has no doubt.
“You’re looking at the future right here,” Gibb said, acknowledging Bourne. “Tri knows now what he can do at the Olympics. He led the tournament in side-out percentage. He knows now what he can do. There’s a circle of guys like him that can step on and take it, and go with it.
“I think he’s gonna lead the charge, especially with Taylor, and a bunch of guys that need to step up now and I’ll be there supporting them.”