FIVB Tokyo Four-Star

FIVB Tokyo: Americans Hoping Early Success is a Harbinger of What’s to Come a Year From Now


If this weekend in Tokyo is, indeed, the Olympic test event the FIVB is touting it to be, then, at the current moment, American fans should be overjoyed.

And they should also hope this is a harbinger of what might be exactly a year from now.

Nine matches the American women have played.

Nine matches they have won.

Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil started it all, cruising over Thailand in the qualifier, 21-9, 21-12, and they carried it forth on Thursday, winning both pool play matches. The first came over Czech’s Barbora Hermannova and Marketa Slukova, 21-15, 21-18, the second over Japan’s Yurika Sakaguchi and Chiyo Suzuki, 21-14, 21-13. It’s a growing trend for Claes and Sponcil, these big wins. They’ve won eight of their last nine matches, and in seven of those wins, only one team, Rebecca Cavalcanti and Ana Patricia Silva, took a set down to two points. The other, it should be mentioned, was a 21-12 win for Claes and Sponcil.

They’re not the only ones dominating in Tokyo, though.

Alix Klineman and April Ross, coming off a win at the Gstaad Major, are likewise 2-0, with wins over Japan and Germany, with a match against Canadians Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson to claim the top spot in pool.

Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman, after beating China and Poland, will get another crack at Cavalcanti and Silva, the same team that knocked them out in the Espinho Four-Star, for the top spot in pool.

Rounding out the final women’s pool is Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat, who after claiming fifth in Espinho are 2-0 in Tokyo, handily beating Germany and France by a combined 27 points.

The undefeated run by the women means that all Americans will, at the very least, break pool in Tokyo. Should all four teams remain undefeated, they’ll receive a first-round bye in the elimination rounds.

The men, meanwhile, have gotten off to a successful start as well, though not quite to the standards of the unbeaten women. After breaking out of the qualifier, Reid Priddy dropped their first two pool play matches, against Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena and Anders Mol and Christian Sorum. Priddy and Brunner will have to beat Austrians Julian Horl and Tobias Winter to move onto the elimination rounds.

Dalhausser and Lucena, though, are assured a spot in the elimination rounds, regardless of tomorrow’s result against Mol and Sorum, though that will be as delightful a match as any to watch this weekend.

Similar to Priddy and Brunner, Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb find themselves in a must-win situation after a pair of losses to China and Germany. On Friday, they’ll have Brazil’s Evandro and Bruno to break pool.

Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb are under no such pressure, after splitting on the day, but a win over Japan would make it possible for them to earn a first-round bye in the elimination rounds, depending on the result of Brazil’s Saymon and Guto and China.