HERMOSA BEACH, Calif. — Sarah Sponcil was due. More than due.
If you were to take a poll of fans and players alike to nominate a Best Player Yet to Win an AVP, Sponcil, prior to Sunday afternoon, would have likely been alone at the top of the list.
Of all of her many accomplishments — 2021 Olympian, back-to-back World Tour gold medalist, 11-time AVP semifinalist — in such her young and absurdly promising career, the only one major missing element was an AVP title.
It’s missing no more.
Just a few blocks down from their practice court with coach Scott Davenport, Sponcil and Terese Cannon won the AVP Hermosa Pro Series title, sweeping Betsi Flint and Kelly Cheng, 21-12, 21-15. The score tells you almost everything you need to know how the final went: Complete and total control from Sponcil and Cannon, against the second-seeded team on the AVP and the No. 1 American duo on the Volleyball World rankings.
Cannon had six blocks — five in a dominant first set that permanently shifted the narrative of the match — to Cheng’s one. They hit .458 to .111. Sponcil had two aces; Cheng and Flint, one of the best serving teams on the AVP, had none. Sponcil and Cannon hit just two errors in 48 attempts; Cheng and Flint piled up 13 in 54. Pick a statistical category, they won it. Pick an intangible, they won those, too.
Most remarkable is the fact that this is Cannon’s first AVP final, yet she showed none of the nerves. Those were extinguished in the semifinals, a 24-22, 11-21, 17-15 win over Kelley Kolinske and Sara Hughes that was perhaps a tad closer than it ever should have been. Sponcil and Cannon were up 14-10 in the third set — four match points to make the final. But behind the blocking of Kolinske, the match wound up tied, even requiring a block from Cannon just to keep the lead, 15-14.
They prevailed, 17-15, in the third and Rich Lambourne summed up how that victory felt in a single word: “Relief.”
But the nerves were gone. They had weathered the worst, against one of the best teams in the United States.
“I think I was more nervous this morning,” Cannon said after the finals win. “Once you start playing — I just needed to get to a final. I’ve never been to one.”
Now she’s one for one. So calm was she that, statistically speaking, she was the best player on the court, racking up 7 kills in 14 attempts, passing well, setting perfect, disrupting the offense of Cheng and Flint with an imposing block that led the field with 1.71 per set on the tournament.
“I should have just pulled out a lawn chair and sat there, honestly,” Sponcil said of Cannon’s blocking. “She was a rock star the whole time. She made aggressive moves and it made my job so much easier.”
She’s good enough on defense even when the job is a difficult one, finishing second in digs per set among players who played more than two matches, trailing only former UCLA teammate Zana Muno, whom Sponcil and Cannon beat in the quarterfinals.
The win marks a successful culmination of the first half of the season for Sponcil and Cannon, a new partnership revived after a brief but successful run at the end of the 2018 season, when they emerged from the qualifier to finish third in Chicago. After a slow start to the season, they won a bronze medal in the Kusadasi Challenger, securing both their first medal together as well as their spot in the World Championships, where they won pool and finished ninth.
Consider any notion of a slow start gone.
Consider their time come.
Sarah Sponcil and Terese Cannon, after a long wait, are AVP champions.
Duda, Ana Patricia win Gstaad for second straight gold medal
There has been no such long wait for a gold medal for Brazilians Duda and Ana Patricia. After winning the World Championships in Rome, the two followed it up with a gold medal in Gstaad, beating fellow countrywomen Barbara and Carol, 21-19, 20-22, 15-10. Claiming bronze is Australians Mariafe Artacho and Taliqua Clancy, who beat Latvia’s Tina Graudina and Anastasija Kravcenoka. It is the second consecutive fourth-place finish in Gstaad for the Latvians.
Americans Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth finished fifth, while Emily Stockman and Megan Kraft claimed ninth, and Corinne Quiggle and Sarah Schermerhorn took 17th.