FIVB Vienna Major

FIVB Vienna: Americans Off to Usual Hot Start, Perfect Out of Qualifier, Pool


Photo: FIVB

It is becoming wonderfully normal, at this point in the season and, by extension, the Olympic race: Americans are regularly barnstorming FIVB qualifiers. Every American team made it out of the Tokyo Four-Star qualifier, just as they did in Edmonton the same weekend. The men made it through in Gstaad while Terese Cannon and Irene Pollock made their international debut as a team in Qidong, China.

Just twice, in fact, in the past two months of international tournaments have Americans failed to make it into the main draw from the qualifier. On Wednesday morning in Vienna, Reid Priddy and Theo Brunner continued that trend.

A day after Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman qualified, beating Austria and Finland in straight sets, Priddy and Brunner did the same. In their tenth international event of the year, they beat a pair of Austrian teams to qualify for their ninth main draw, putting a little heat on the front runners in the Olympic race as they continue to slide up the rankings.

After a narrow miss in Gstaad, where they lost to Casey Patterson and Chase Budinger in a white-knuckler of a country quota, 21-16, 16-21, 18-20, they were straight into main draw at the Espinho Four-Star, qualified at the Tokyo Four-Star and have done so again in Vienna for their first crack at Major points.

After failing to get out of the quota in Gstaad, which was preceded by not having enough points to get into the Hamburg World Championships, Vienna will be a momentous opportunity for Brunner and Priddy in the FIVB ranks. With Billy Allen and Stafford Slick opting to stay home to compete in AVP Hermosa, and Patterson and Budinger unable to get in on points, Brunner and Priddy not only have the chance to develop a bigger lead over their American peers, but to gain on the leaders: Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb, Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb.

It is much the same opportunity presented to Larsen and Stockman, who followed up their qualifier wins with a main draw win over Italians Marta Menegatti and Viktoria Orsi Toth, 21-17, 21-17. They will see – who else, at this point? – Brazilians Rebecca Cavalcanti and Ana Patricia Silva. It will be the third time they’ve played one another in the past three tournaments.

The remainder of the American women continued the unbeaten streak in Vienna as well. April Ross and Alix Klineman swept Austria’s Nadine Strauss and Teresa Strauss, Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil beat Switzerland’s Joana Heidrich and Anouk Verge-Depre, 15-21, 21-19, 15-12; and Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat beat Germans Sandra Ittlinger and Chantal Labourer 21-16, 21-15.

“More is needed,” Walsh Jennings said after a fifth in Tokyo, “for us to be the best team in the world. We gotta step up.”