FIVB Beach Volleyball

Big Start for Americans in Espinho Four-Star and Edmonton Three-Star

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For how well the pair of FIVB tournaments being played simultaneously are going at the moment – a Three-Star in Edmonton and a Four-Star in Portugal – it’s easy to forget that it began with something of a setback.

Sara Hughes and Summer Ross made the trip to Espinho, with every intention of competing, before withdrawing late, alas giving themselves, and a nagging injury, some rest in a year that has gone around the globe and then some. It’s only July, though already they’ve competed in nine FIVBs, two AVPs, and hit seven different countries, including China three times.  

So maybe what could have been initially perceived as a setback will prove to be a win for the two. Ross and Hughes likely needed a breather, similar to Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb, coach Jose Loiola’s other team, who took the week off before heading to Tokyo and Vienna for another international swing.

No matter the setting, the week, be it in Canada or Portugal or some rest at home, has been nothing but positives for the Americans. On Thursday in Espinho, Brooke Sweat and Kerri Walsh Jennings and Emily Stockman and Kelley Larsen swept their pools, earning a bye in the first round of bracket play, set to begin on Friday morning.

“We had a great day,” Walsh Jennings said. “It feels good. We’ll play tomorrow. If we win two matches tomorrow we’ll make it to the final day. That’s the goal.”  

The short-term goal, though, when it comes to pool play, is to simply to make it to the next day, something all Americans accomplished all over the map on Thursday. After losing their first round of pool in Espinho to a sneaky good Greek team, Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil won a critical match against Dutch Joy Stubbe and Marleen Van Iersel, 22-20, 19-21, 23-21.

Survive and advance. That’s all that matters in these early rounds.

That’s all the U.S. did on Thursday.

The men have yet to play in Espinho, with only the qualifier rounds having been played thus far, though head east from Espinho and hop across the pond to the Edmonton Three-Star and you’ll find that the Americans have found nothing but success there, too.

Miles Evans and Billy Kolinske qualified, beating Japan, 21-16, 21-14, to make their first FIVB main draw since a Three-Star in Malaysia in April. On the women’s end, Terese Cannon and Irene Pollock, coming off a main draw at a Two-Star in China, also qualified, beating Canadians Darby Dunn and Devon May, 21-17, 21-15. Then they came out and beat fellow Americans Corinne Quiggle and Amanda Dowdy, 26-24, 21-19.

That loss, incredibly, marked one of only two losses in Edmonton between eight teams. Kelly Reeves and Kim DiCello topped Italy’s Gaia Traballi and Agata Zuccarelli, 21-15, 21-19, and Emily Day and Betsi Flint beat Swiss Esmee Bobner and Zoe Verge-Depre, 23-25, 21-17, 15-9.

The men, meanwhile, went 7-1 on the day, as Billy Allen and Stafford Slick, Ryan Doherty and John Hyden, and Casey Patterson and Chase Budinger swept their pools. Evans and Kolinske atoned for a loss to Lithuania with a win over Canada’s Aaron Nusbaum and Michael Plantinga, 21-19, 21-17, to advance.