Wednesday evening stretched into early Thursday, and still, it was the most promising of starts for the six American beach volleyball teams in the Volleyball World Tepic Elite 16. Six were still standing after Wednesday’s qualifier, including both men, the first time two American men’s teams had survived an Elite 16 qualifier in the Beach Pro Tour era.
On Thursday in Mexico, Tri Bourne and Chaim Schalk went deep into overtime twice with the Czech Republic’s David Schweiner and Ondrej Perusic, ultimately losing, 25-27, 25-27. But even that, if you’re a glass-half-full type, could have been viewed as a moral victory of sorts. Just a week ago, Bourne and Schalk had flatlined against France in the La Paz Challenge and failed to break pool, and here they were, pushing one of the world’s most consistently elite teams to a pair of deep sets. Half an hour later, Julia Scoles and Betsi Flint would overcome an 8-13 deficit in the first set against France’s Lezana Placette and Alexia Richard and win, 21-19. About 50 yards over, Sarah Sponcil and Terese Cannon smacked Germans Cinja Tillmann and Svenja Muller, 21-10, in the opening set.
All was well.
Until it wasn’t.
Scoles and Flint would drop the next two sets to France, while Sponcil and Cannon would do the same with the Germans, losing 18-20 in the third set. An hour after that, Trevor Crabb and Theo Brunner were swept by Italians Adrian Carambula and Alex Ranghieri, 21-15, 21-12.
And that, in short, is how the day went for the U.S. in Tepic. Bourne and Schalk, Brunner and Crabb, Scoles and Flint, and Sponcil and Cannon would all finish the day 0-2. Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth logged a late win over Mexico’s Atena Gutierrez and Abril Flores, 21-19, 21-11, finishing the day 1-1, after dropping their first in a friendly-fire matchup with Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes.
It was Cheng and Hughes who provided the lone bright spot for the USA on Thursday, sweeping Nuss and Kloth in the early afternoon (21-18, 21-17) before winning the night-cap match over Australia’s Mariafe Artacho and Taliqua Clancy (21-18, 21-19). That win is a crucial one for Nuss and Kloth, who are tied in Pool D with Artacho and Clancy. A win over the Australians at 3 p.m. Pacific would guarantee a berth into the playoffs. Cheng and Hughes are all but guaranteed to move on, and are heavily favored to beat Gutierrez and Flores in their 3 p.m. matchup.
Cannon and Sponcil will play Flint and Scoles in another all-American matchup at 1 p.m. Pacific to determine the third and fourth positions in Pool C.
Bourne and Schalk will have their hands full in their final match of pool, against Sweden’s David Ahman and Jonatan Hellvig, who went 1-1 on the day. Crabb and Brunner, too, have no easy afternoon ahead of them, with a matchup against the Netherlands’ Alex Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen, who are also 1-1.
For full schedule and results of the Tepic Elite 16, head to Volleyball World.