What a great Thursday at the Tokyo Olympics for USA volleyball players.
On the beach, Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil and Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena won.
Indoors, the USA women improved to 3-0 with a five-set victory over Turkey that ran the gamut of highs and lows.
The Americans open and close play Friday at Shiokaze Park. April Ross and Alix Klineman have the first match of the day when they try to get to 3-0 when they play Sanne Keizer and Madelein Meppelink of the Netherlands in Pool B. Later in Pool B, Liliana Fernandez and Elsa Baquerizo play Chen Xue and Xinxin Wang of China.
Then in the final match in the sand, Jake Gibb and Tri Bourne also try to to go 3-0 when they face one of the medal favorites in Cherif Samba and Ahmed Tijan in Pool C. Earlier in Pool C, Italians Adrian Carambula and Enrico Rossi face Switzerland’s Adrian Heidrich and Mirco Gerson.
Click here for the complete Friday beach schedule.
Indoors, the USA men hope to break the tie in a favorable way when they play Brazil in Pool B in Ariake Arena. Both the USA and Brazil are 2-1, a game back of unbeaten ROC, which plays France (1-2). Also in Pool B, Argentina (1-2) tries to stay in playoff contention when it plays Tunisia (0-3).
Click here for the complete Friday men’s schedule.
Start with Claes and Sponcil, who basically held batting practice in their 21-8, 21-6 victory over Kenya’s Brackcides Khadambi and Gaudencia Makokha.
“I thought they played great,” said Team Slaes coach Jordan Cheng. “Sometimes with these matches, it’s hard to stay focused and dialed in, but here at the Olympics, every point matters, and I think that mentality helped them.
“I’m proud of them, they took care of business and did what we needed to.”
Claes and Sponcil, seeded ninth, close out pool play on Saturday against fourth-seeded Rebecca Cavalcanti and Ana Patricia Silva, who are 1-1 and desperately need the victory.
Also in Pool D, Tina Graudina and Anastasija Kravcenokia (1-1) play the Kenyans.
Dalhausser and Lucena got off to a tough start with their opening pool-play loss to Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen of the Netherlands.
But since then they have turned it on.
First they beat Brazil’s Alison Cerutti and Alvaro Filho, and then at 11 a.m. on Thursday dominated in the third to beat Argentina’s Julian Azaad and Nicolas Capogrosso 21-19, 18-21, 15-6.
“We started a little slow, it felt like we were going through the motions a little bit, and then once we got down in the second, you kind of saw the fire and I think they realized ‘If we don’t pull this out we could be out of the tournament.’ and that kind of lit them up,” said Dalcena coach Jason Lochhead. “I’m glad that happened, and hopefully we can carry that on into our next games.
Except for one day when it rained, it’s been pretty hot on the sand.
“I didn’t think it was too hot for us. I just thought we were playing real tentative, not loose, and there was no energy, kind of flat,” Lucena said. “Maybe because it’s the first time we’re playing at this time, and then these conditions. Maybe it’s because at the back of your mind, you know, if you lose, you’re out. So something’s just not clicking yet. It happened in the third set but it’s got to start from the beginning.”
Also in Pool D, Brazil’s Alison and Alvaro swept the Dutch. Dalcena, the Brazilians, and the Dutch all finished pool play 2-1.
Dalcena has been operating under tough circumstances, since Dalhausser is still in quarantine when he’s not playing.
“I’m 41 years old and I’m not allowed to get treatment,” Dalhausser said. “So I’m trying to figure it out. I’m pretty self-sufficient but there’s some things that I just can’t get to. That’s been the most challenging part. Plus we can’t train against a team. We haven’t played in these kind of conditions yet against a team. So it’s a bit of a challenge but I’m glad we overcame.
“Four hours before the match, I have to get a COVID-19 test. Luckily, they’re so nice so they let me go at 11 o’clock last night instead of 7 this morning. After the match, I guess they made beach volleyball a contact sport, so I have to get another COVID-19 test. I think now I’m at like 21 for 21 on COVID-19 tests. I’m batting 1.000. Major league (baseball) teams, you looking for a hitter?”
Dalhausser said he’s been keeping himself occupied during quarantine.
“I’m pretty good at entertaining myself,” he said. “I’ve been watching a lot of like, learning how to trade stock options. So I’ve been watching a million YouTube videos. Thankfully, the internet has been pretty good. So yeah, that’s why I’m so chatty right now.”
Among the other results Thursday, the top-seeded Canadian pair of Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes (3-0) swept Switzerland’s Anouk Vérgé-Depre and Joana Heidrich (2-1) 21-13, 24-22.
“Going into the match, we expected it to be really back and forth,” said Pavan, the former Nebraska star. “And after the first set, it was pretty one-sided, we knew that they were going to refocus and come back much stronger in the second and they did.
“I think we needed that. We needed to be pushed and we needed to be really close to get us ready for playoffs. This was an incredibly difficult pool. Every single team in this group is very talented and to come out of this 3-0 in first place, we’re so excited about it.
Click here for all of Thursday’s beach results.
The USA women beat Turkey 25-19, 25-20, 17-25, 20-25, 15-12 as a late sub made a difference.
Opposite Jordan Thompson continued to lead the offense, this time with 15 kills, but she hit .290 and was taken out in the fourth set for Annie Drews. Drews came up big with seven kills with one error in 12 attacks and hit .368.
Outside hitter Jordan Larson had 12 kills but hit .171. Middle Haleigh Washington had seven kills but hit .167. Outside Michelle Bartsch-Hackley had six kills but hit negative. Middle Foluke Akinradewo and Kelsey Robinson, who subbed in at outside, had four kills apiece. Akinradewo and Washington had five blocks apiece, and Larson and Thompson had two each.
Libero Justine Wong-Orantes had 11 digs, setter Jordyn Poulter had seven, Larson had six, and Bartsch-Hackley five.
Also in Pool B, Italy swept Argentina, leaving Italy and the USA tied at the top at 3-0. ROC, which beat China in five, is alone in third at 2-1, Turkey is 1-2, and China and Argentina are 0-3. Only the top four teams get out of pool play.
The USA women play ROC on Saturday.
Click here for all of Thursday’s indoor women’s results.