COOLANGATTA, Australia — They’d have to split up. Wouldn’t be able to get into events. At least for a year, Kristen Nuss and Taryn Koth would have to part ways.

That was the narrative, anyway.

That’s what everyone told Nuss and Kloth, who despite having a remarkable rookie AVP season together — three top fives and a win in Atlanta — had a collective zero international points to their name.

Everyone — literally everyone — recommended they split up, grab a partner with points, and get back together.

Points be damned.

In the first Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Futures event of the season this past week, Nuss and Kloth climbed up the reserve list and slipped into the qualifier.

To Australia they were going.

To Australia they were winning.

Just one set did Nuss and Kloth drop in their seven matches Down Under, finishing with a 19-21, 21-9, 15-7 win over Australians Nicole Laird and Phoebe Bell in the gold-medal match. Equally as big as the medal itself — if not bigger, in the longterm view of the matter – is the 400 points they split as a team, enough to get them into the second-tier Challenge level events moving forward.

Kristen Nuss-Taryn Kloth
Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth win gold in Australia/Volleyball Australia photo

“I think this whole time we have been here the theme that kept coming up was how grateful we were to be here with each other,” Nuss said. “The amount of times people have said to split up and we heavily considered it, and I mean, shoot, Taryn was initially coming to play here with Aurora [Davis] so the fact that we were able to compete together in this — just grateful.”

“Just getting in, I screamed in the parking lot at the dermatologist’s when Tim [Brewster] texted me and said ‘You guys are in!'” Kloth added. “I couldn’t believe it. We just wanted a chance. We just wanted to compete.”

And compete they did. Astonishing as it may sound, not only were Nuss and Kloth not the only Americans on the podium — they weren’t even the only former LSU Tigers on the podium. Also making her international debut was 25-year-old Toni Rodriguez, a former teammate of Nuss’s and Kloth’s at LSU who was blocking for Zana Muno. They won bronze together, in their first tournament as a team, beating Japan’s Suzuka Hashimoto and Reika Murakami, 24-22, 21-17.

“I think that we used every match to learn and we improved and got better with the wind and communicating with each other every match,” said Muno, who won a gold medal in Leuven, Belgium with Crissy Jones last summer. “We felt like we just continued to get better and better and we’re excited to keep that momentum going.”

That momentum, for Muno and Rodriguez, will take them to Itapema, Brazil, for a Challenger event April 14-17, where they’ll be joined by Terese Cannon and Sarah Sponcil, Lauren Fendrick and Emily Stockman, Sara Hughes and Kelley Kolinske, and Kloth and Nuss.

Muno and Rodriguez and Kloth and Nuss mark the first American medals of the young season. In the Volleyball World debut, in Tlaxcala, Mexico, the Americans were kept out of the medal rounds, and in Rosarito, Mexico, a week later, Betsi Flint and Kelly Claes claimed fourth.

But if history has proven anything, it is this: American women will not be kept off the podium for long, particularly for those emerging from the hyper-competitive world of NCAA beach volleyball.

“It’s a really awesome that we all got the opportunity to come out and play and represent not only the USA but LSU,” Rodriguez said. “Like I say, I bleed purple and gold, so it’ll always be home.”

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