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November 29, 2023
April 29, 2023
On Saturday morning in Uberlandia, Brazil, a morning in which Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes could sleep in and relax and enjoy the fruits of their hard-earned bye, Taryn Kloth told Cheng that the Volleyball World Elite16 in which they were competing shall be renamed the “International AVP.”
Kloth and Nuss were on their way to a ninth-place match with Sarah Sponcil and Terese Cannon, their second straight all-American matchup of the tournament, following a pool play bout with Betsi Flint and Julia Scoles. Cheng and Flint had already weathered a USA-on-USA match, having begun the tournament against Sponcil and Cannon.
A few hours and three combined wins later, Kloth’s words proved even more prescient than before, as both teams advanced into Sunday’s semifinals, where they will meet one another in yet another all-American match.
Such matchups are inevitable when a quarter of the field consists of American women. It assures the USA at least one medal. The victor of their semifinal will meet the winner of Australia’s Mariafe Artacho and Taliqua Clancy and Brazil’s Ana Patricia Silva and Duda Lisboa. The two losing pairs will play for bronze.
It’s the fifth time since December that Nuss and Kloth have played Cheng and Hughes. All four previous matches have gone the way of Cheng and Hughes, including most recently a 10-21, 31-29, 15-12 marathon under the lights at AVP New Orleans. Both teams, however, continue to improve at a staggering rate. Once stuck in a string of six fifth-place finishes in six tournaments, Nuss and Kloth have now broken the quarterfinals twice this season, the first being a gold medal run at the La Paz Challenge.
“For me I think there is something to be said about experience,” Nuss said. “Drew [Hamilton, their coach] and us have talked about that a lot. In the grand scheme of things, we really have not played a ton internationally so I think consistency and experience are correlated and that is what is being seen this tourney. We’re starting to put everything together. Still a long way from where we want to be but we’re definitely taking steps in the right direction.”
Those steps have included five straight sweeps in Brazil, including a significant 21-18, 21-17 quarterfinal win over world No. 3 Barbara Seixas and Carol Salgado.
“We walked into that last match against Brazil and I told Kristen ‘I’ll cheer for you, you cheer for me,’ that’s about the only people in the stands who wanted to see us with success,” Kloth said.
True enough, Nuss and Kloth rendered the sold-out crowd mostly silent in their win over the Brazilians.
At the same time, Cheng and Hughes were in a three-set grinder with Switzerland’s Tanja Huberli and Nina Brunner. After dropping the opening set, 15-21, Cheng and Hughes recovered to win the next two, 21-17, 16-14, the third straight match they’ve had with the Swiss that has gone into overtime in the third set.
And after all of that, after the thousands of miles traveled and time zones crossed, after three pool play matches and a pair of thrilling quarterfinals, Sunday’s 4 a.m. Pacific matchup between the two Americans is, simply, a replay of the New Orleans quarterfinals at the Uberlandia Elite16 — er, the Uberlandia International AVP.
While the women’s field was so replete with American women that it became mathematically impossible for them to avoid one another, Tri Bourne and Chaim Schalk were the only American men standing since the second round of Wednesday’s qualifier.
After squeaking out of pool play by a fraction of a point differential edge over Brazil’s Pedro and Guto, Bourne and Schalk made good on their fortune, stunning George Wanderley and Andre Loyola, 21-15, 21-19, on center court in the ninth-place round. Bourne tacked on four more of his tournament-leading 28 blocks, pushing the USA into the quarterfinals, the first quarterfinal Bourne has made in an Elite16.
That, however, would mark the end of their run, as Poland’s Bartosz Losiak and Michal Bryl mopped up the Americans, 21-13, 21-15 in a decisive win. It’s the second straight fifth-place finish for Bourne and Schalk, who fell in the quarterfinals of the Itapema Challenge before skipping Saquarema and hitting AVP New Orleans instead, a tournament they won. The fifth in Uberlandia puts them 160 points ahead of Trevor Crabb and Theo Brunner in the Olympic race as the top Americans.
Bryl and Losiak, the tournament’s three seed, will meet the Czech Republic’s Ondrej Perusic and David Schweiner in the semifinals. In the other semifinal, world No. 1 Anders Mol and Christian Sorum of Norway will play the new Dutch duo of Steven van de Velde and Matthew Immers, who won their pool and upset Germans Clemens Wickler and Nils Ehlers in the quarterfinals.