FIVB Edmonton, Espinho

Espinho And Edmonton Making for Medal-Laden Weekend for United States

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It could be a medal-laden weekend for the United States, which sent an armada teams both overseas and north. There was the Espinho contingent, with three teams on the women’s end – Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil, Brooke Sweat and Kerri Walsh Jennings, Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman – and three from the men – Theo Brunner and Reid Priddy, Taylor Crabb and Jake Gibb, Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena.

The men will come home empty handed, with Brunner and Priddy taking a country-high finish of ninth.

But the women?

After dropping their first match of pool, and nearly losing the next, Claes and Sponcil went on a tear through the elimination rounds. They pasted Slovakia, China, and Greece by wide margins, and in a semifinal against Brazil’s Rebecca Cavalcanti and Ana Patricia Silva – a match in which the Americans were technically underdogs – they did it again, winning the first set 21-12 and hanging on to win the second, 26-24.

It put them into their second final as a team, and first since The Hague in January, where it was Cavalcanti and Silva who beat them to claim gold. In Portugal it was a similarly young Russian team, 21-year-old Svetlana Kholomina and 22-year-old Nadezda Makroguzova, who snatched gold from them.

Though Claes and Sponcil lost, 17-21, 16-21, it was a win for the team, which picked up a monumental finish at a time they needed it. After failing to make it out of the qualifier in Gstaad, and consequently missing an opportunity for Major points, podiums are what Sponcil and Claes will need from here on out. And a podium is exactly what they got in Espinho.

It’s a position that Emily Day and Betsi Flint and Stafford Slick and Billy Allen are in as well. They’re in Edmonton, the former in the semifinals against Australians Becchara Palmer and Nicole Laird, the latter playing for bronze against the loser of Canadians Grant O’Gorman and Ben Saxton and Italians Alex Ranghieri and Marco Caminati.

One medal has been won.

Two more can make their way home tomorrow.