Olympics volleyball Monday: Team Slaes rallies to win in 3, USA men fall to ROC

Taylor Sander-Tokyo Olympics
Taylor Sander wipes the Russian block for a point/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

Team Slaes — Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil — finished on a 6-0 run in the third set and won their first beach volleyball match of the Tokyo Olympics on Monday.

But the USA men lost in four to the Russia Olympic Committee to drop to 1-1 in indoor volleyball. 

On the beach on Tuesday, April Ross and Alix Klineman play the first match at Shiokaze Park, taking on Liliana Fernandez and Elsa Baquerizo of Spain. Both teams won their first Pool B matches, so a victory for either will almost assuredly vault them out of pool play with one match remaining. 

On the other hand, Americans Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena are in an almost must-win Pool D situation when they play Brazilians Alison Cerutti and Alvaro Filho, who are 1-0. A loss for Dalcena — who got swept in their opener by Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen of the Netherlands — means being relegated to the “Lucky Losers” bracket or being eliminated.

Indoors, the USA women are back in action on Tuesday morning when they play China. While the Americans are coming off their sweep of Argentina in Pool B, China was knocked off by Turkey. 

Sarah Sponcil-Tokyo Olympics
Sarah Sponcil digs in her first Olympic pool-play match/Ed Chan, VBshots.com


Ninth-seeded Claes, the former NCAA champion at USC, and Sponcil, the former NCAA champion at rival UCLA, beat 16th-seeded Latvians Tina Graudina and Anastasija Kravcenoka 21-13, 16-21, 15-11. 

Graudina is coming off an NCAA title for USC and her head coach, Dain Blanton, was an assistant at USC when Claes played. He is doing analysis for NBC at Tokyo.

“We did a good job just thinking one point at a time and being really present,” Sponcil told Blanton in the TV post-match interview. “It came down to some really good blocks by Kell. I couldn’t be more proud of her. It was so exciting. First match out there in the Olympics, going to three, and taking it. Really exciting.”

Slaes cruised in the first set, but the Latvians ralled in the second 21-16, and then went up 11-9 before the Americans turned it on in a rally that included two big blocks by Claes.

Sponcil, Claes and Graudina are also the first NCAA beach volleyball players to compete in the Olympic Games.

Claes and Sponcil play again in Pool D on Wednesday against Gaudencia Makokha and Brackcides Khadambi of Kenya, the No. 21 seed.

Also in Pool D on Tuesday, fourth-seeded Ana Patricia Silva and Rebecca Cavalcanti of Brazil swept the Kenyans. 

Also Monday at Shiokaze Park, top-seeded Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes swept 13th-seeded Germans Julia Sude and Karla Borger.

Click here for all of Monday’s beach volleyball results.

Tuesday’s beach could well be affected by rain and winds. Some events — not beach volleyball — have already been rescheduled. Click here for the complete 10-match Tuesday beach schedule.

Micah Christenson-Tokyo Olympics
Micah Christenson sets a tight pass/Ed Chan, VBshots.com


The USA men, who opened with their impressive sweep of France, fell to ROC 25-23, 27-25, 21-25, 25-23.

“We just didn’t play the volleyball we needed to play and we had lots of opportunities to do so, whether it was attacking in certain stretches and serving for sure in certain stretches,” USA coach John Speraw said.

“I think we had too many errors toward the end of that second set. The consistency of where we are right now serving hasn’t been great, so that’s going to be important when you’re playing a team as physical as Russia.”

Matt Anderson — who had nine digs — and Taylor Sander — who had an ace and two blocks — had 14 kills apiece for the USA. 

TJ DeFalco had seven kills as he hit .556, Max Holt had six kills, and Mitch Stahl and David Smith had five kills each.

Setter Micah Christenson had 47 assists, eight digs and two blocks. Libero Erik Shoji had nine digs.

Anderson, DeFalco, Christenson, and Holt all had an ace apiece.

Dmitry Volkov led ROC with 12 kills, Egor Kliuka had 11, and Maxim Mikhaylov had 10.

Also in men’s volleyball Pool B on Monday, France improved to 1-1 as it swept 0-2 Tunisia. In the last match of the day, defending Olympic-champion Brazil (2-0) avoided a defeat that would have turned the pool upside down when it rallied to beat Argentina (0-2) in five.

In Pool A, Iran (2-0) swept Venezuela (0-2), Poland improved to 1-1 with a sweep of Italy (0-2), and Japan (2-0) beat Canada (0-2) in four.

The men are off Tuesday before the Americans play Tunisia on Wednesday.

Click here for the complete men’s schedule and results.

In addition to the USA women playing China Tuesday, also in Pool B the ROC (Russia) plays Argentina and Italy plays Turkey. In Pool A, Japan plays Serbia, Brazil plays the Dominican Republic, and Korea plays Kenya.

Click here for the women’s Tuesday schedule.

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