Before Thursday, Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes had not yet played Sarah Sponcil and Terese Cannon. One could have figured on safely betting that their first meeting would have come at an AVP this season, where they are likely to cross paths somewhere around half a dozen times this year. But, of course, the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour has essentially become a who’s who on the AVP Tour when it comes to the North American women.
So it was in Uberlandia, Brazil, for this weekend’s Uberlandia Elite16 that they’d play one another for the first time, one of two all-USA matchups that will occur in pool play alone.
“We knew our first match would be tough against our fellow Americans,” Hughes said after a 21-19, 21-17 win over Sponcil and Cannon. “We just focused on our side of the court and came in with a good game plan. Kelly and I both felt like our side out game helped us win that match.”
Hughes and Cheng are the only Americans to walk away from Thursday unscathed, though it’s also notable that they were just one of two American teams to play a single match, the other being Sponcil — Cheng’s Tokyo Olympic teammate — and Cannon.
Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth split, dropping their opener to world No. 1 Ana Patricia Silva and Duda Lisboa (18-21, 17-21) before rebounding with a sweep over Germans Karla Borger and Sandra Ittlinger (21-15, 21-17). Also in Pool A, Betsi Flint and Julia Scoles lost both, to the aforementioned Germans (18-21, 19-21) and Brazilians (13-21, 17-21). Nuss and Kloth and Scoles and Flint will meet one another to finish out Pool A, where Scoles and Flint need a sweep over Nuss and Kloth to advance, and even then, it would come down to points, which are not in the favor of Flint and Scoles, who hold a -17 point differential. A win will assure Nuss and Kloth to advance at least to the ninth-place rounds.
Both Cheng and Hughes and Sponcil and Cannon will have two matches on Friday, beginning with 4 a.m. Pacific bouts. Cannon and Sponcil begin with Taina Silva and Victoria Lopes, the silver medalists from last weekend’s Saqaurema Challenge. Hughes and Cheng will see Latvians Tina Graudina and Anastasija Samoilova. At noon, those matches will flip, with Sponcil and Cannon matching up with Latvia and Hughes and Cheng with Brazil.
On the men’s end, Tri Bourne and Chaim Schalk continued their hot streak, following up two qualifying sweeps with a stunning upset over world No. 2 Alex Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen (23-21, 20-22, 15-12), a win in which Bourne notched 10 blocks. In the nightcap match, however, they fell to wild cards Pedro Salgado and Guto Carvalhaes (18-21, 21-15, 10-15), turning Pool B into a proper mess.
All four teams in Pool B are now 1-1, as Sweden’s Jonatan Hellvig and David Ahman beat Pedro and Guto but were later swept by Brouwer and Meeuwsen. The edge, currently, belongs to Brouwer and Meeuwsen, the only team to win a match in straight sets.
Bourne and Schalk play Ahman and Hellvig, winners of the Tepic Elite16, at 11 a.m. A win will assure they advance from pool play, regardless of any other result. A loss, however, will put them in a tiebreak situation with the loser of the Netherlands-Brazil match, which will come down to a ratio of sets and points.