World Championships Day One

Slow Start for Americans at World Championships


Photo: FIVB

Evie Matthews hates that Hamburg stadium court. Well, maybe that’s not fair. He doesn’t hate it. He acknowledges it’s an excellent venue for beach volleyball matches, just not one in which you’re the opposing team, and the two players across the net are from Germany, and one is an Olympic gold medalist.

Then Matthews, coach of Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman, does, absolutely hates that stadium court.

“We’re playing the icon of Germany, first round,” Matthews said of Larsen and Stockman’s first round matchup at World Championships of Laura Ludwig and Margareta Kozuch. “The girls were like ‘Oh, that stadium court’s amazing!’ And I’m just like ‘Let me go throw up. I hate that God dang stadium.’”

He has a tough memory of it, of course. In 2017, he watched Phil Dalhausser and Nick Luecna blow a 20-16 lead in the quarterfinals to Canadians Chaim Schalk and Ben Saxton, only to pull it out in three, advancing to eventually win the whole thing.

There was no comeback on Friday night in Germany for Larsen and Stockman. One of the hottest teams in the world, with a silver in the Warsaw four-star and a win at AVP Seattle, they fell to the home favorites, 19-21, 15-21.

This is the way the World Tour goes. One week, you’re beating Ludwig and Kozuch in the ninth-place match in Warsaw, and the next, you’re falling by the exact same score.

Such is the advantage of a thumping stadium court, at the biggest event of the beach calendar.

It was a universally slow start to the day for Americans in Hamburg, no matter the court, be it stadium or court two or three. The only other American women’s team to play, Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat, lost a three-setter to Dutch Joy Stubbe and Marleen Van Iersel, 15-21, 21-19, 9-15. The men, meanwhile, went 1-1. Billy Allen and Stafford Slick lost a fun match to Brazilians Alison Cerutti and Alvaro Filho, 21-19, 15-21, 10-15; though Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena were able to bring home the first victory of the tournament for the U.S., beating Argentina’s Julian Azaad and Nicolas Capogrosso, 21-14, 21-13.

“Always love going up against that Brazilian fire,” Slick wrote on Instagram afterwards. Next, he and Allen will have Russia’s Ilya Leshukov and Konstantin Semenov, who beat Qatar on Friday. Dalhausser and Lucena will also play Sunday, against Canada’s Grant O’Gorman and Saxton, who lost an excellent match to Dutch Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen, 21-23, 21-19, 9-15.

On Saturday, five more American teams will make their World Champs debuts: Taylor Crabb and Jake Gibb vs. Uruguay; Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb vs. Iran; Alix Klineman and April Ross vs. Nicaragua; Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil vs. Russia; Sara Hughes and Summer Ross vs. Argentina.

None, to the relief of Matthews, will have a German team on stadium court. Not until Monday, at least, when Bourne and Crabb will match up with host youngsters Clemens Wickler and Julius Thole.