Ladies and Gentlemen – we have some Olympic Ranking movement! And in dramatic fashion.
With just one event to go, Sarah Sponcil and Kelly Claes have superseded Kerri Walsh-Jennings and Brooke Sweat for the second USA Olympic spot. And they did so with their first FIVB Gold Medal ever!
Team Slaes has been chipping away at Kerri and Brooke’s lead in all three of their 2021 FIVB Main Draw appearances. In Sochi, their first tournament in 2021 not having to play the Country Quota, Sponcil/Claes dominantly moved into the second spot with a 320-point increase and a near-perfect run in this penultimate event.
On their path to the top of the Sochi podium and claiming the second USA spot, Team Slaes only dropped one set. They beat #3-ranked Agatha/Duda to win their pool and then bested two American teams in playoffs – Stockman/Kolinske and Ross/Klineman. The only set they lost was to the A-Team, who also happens to be the #1-ranked team in the world.
In a Semifinal against the Russian home team and a Final against the Swiss, Sponcil/Claes led most of the time and looked very much in control. In their 100th match as a duo, Team Slaes won their first FIVB Gold Medal. Whaaaaaaa?! That’s an awesome stat.
With Team Slaes’ big win, they leapfrogged Walsh-Jennings/Sweat. They now hold a 160-point lead over the vets. This makes the scenarios for the deciding event in Ostrava a mirror image of the Sochi scenarios.
For a tie:
Walsh-Jennings/Sweat get 3rd/2nd/1st
Sponcil/Claes get 5th/4th/3rd
For a change:
Walsh-Jennings/Sweat get 2nd/1st
Sponcil/Claes get 5th/4th
Two things worth noting:
- Walsh-Jennings/Sweat have not increased their OR in 2021. They also have to play the Country Quota on Tuesday, June 1, against Sara Hughes and Emily Day and the Qualifier on Wednesday.
- A tie in OR would go to Walsh-Jennings/Sweat and here’s why: Once an Olympic spot is earned by a country, that federation technically has the authority to decide which teams go to the Olympics. USA Volleyball typically defaults to the team that “earns” the Olympic spot according to the FIVB’s ranking system. The FIVB tiebreaker is the number of Olympic qualification tournaments played. Walsh-Jennings/Sweat have played more events than Sponcil/Claes.
Unfortunately for Stockman/Kolinske, their 9th-place Sochi finish takes them out of the running for the Tokyo Olympics. The duo is still a top-10 team in the world and will compete in Ostrava, but their Race to Tokyo is officially over.
17th = 320
9th = 400
5th = 480
4th = 560
3rd = 640
2nd = 720
1st = 800
USA Women’s Olympic Standings Before Sochi
April Ross/Alix Klineman – 9400
Kerri Walsh-Jennings/Brooke Sweat – 6960
Sarah Sponcil/Kelly Claes – 6800
April Ross/Alix Klineman – 5th place – 480 points
Kerri Walsh-Jennings/Brooke Sweat – 25th place – 240 points
Sarah Sponcil/Kelly Claes – 1st place – 800 points
Olympic Standings After Sochi
April Ross/Alix Klineman – 9400 (no change)
Sarah Sponcil/Kelly Claes – 7120 (+320 points)
Kerri Walsh-Jennings/Brooke Sweat – 6960 (no change)
Ross/Klineman need to get 3rd or better to increase their Olympic Ranking. Walsh-Jennings/Sweat and Sponcil/Claes need to get 4th or better.
Ross/Klineman are still sitting atop the OR. Canadian AVP rivals Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes are right on their tails, trailing by only 80 points. Those two duos are almost unreachable by the other teams, though, so the #1 and #2 seeds in the Olympics will likely be AVP athletes. We’re so lucky to have the best on our beach.
Now for the Men.
USA Men’s Olympic Standings Before Sochi
Jake Gibb/Taylor Crabb – 7040
Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena – 7040
Tri Bourne/Trevor Crabb – 6600
Jake Gibb/Taylor Crabb – 17th Place – 320 points
Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena – 9th Place – 400 points
Tri Bourne/Trevor Crabb – 5th Place – 480 points
Olympic Standings After Sochi
Jake Gibb/Taylor Crabb – 7040 (no change)
Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena – 7040 (no change)
Tri Bourne/Trevor Crabb – 6680 (+80 points)
All three teams need a 5th or better to increase their Olympic Ranking.
While there wasn’t any movement on the Men’s side, Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb’s huge wins over the Dutch duo of Brouwer/Meeuwsen and Russians Semenov/Leshukov resulted in a 5th-place finish. Bourne/Crabb gained a necessary 80 points keeping them alive in the Race to Tokyo. The Hawaiians now need to win the Gold Medal in Ostrava while either Gibb/Crabb or Dalhausser/Lucena get 9th or worse.
That’s it. Winning Ostrava is the only chance for Bourne/Crabb to qualify for Tokyo. But there’s still definitely a chance, and I bet Bourne/Crabb are looking at Sponcil/Claes saying – if they can do it, why can’t we?
Two things worth noting:
- There’s no way for Bourne/Crabb to tie either of the other teams. They are 360 points down; the only point increase that puts them in contention would be a 400-point addition to their OR resulting from 1st place.
- If Bourne/Crabb win and the other two USA Men’s teams do not increase their OR, they’ll be tied for the second Olympic spot. Considering what I said about a tiebreaker earlier, Gibb/Crabb have notched more Olympic qualifying tournaments than Dalhausser/Lucena.
One. Tournament. Left. Will legends Phil Dalhausser, Nick Lucena, and Jake Gibb end their careers with another Olympic appearance? Or will the young Hawaiians be able to pull off what Team Slaes just did? And will Slaes, the youngest potential USA Olympic Beach Volleyball team ever, hold onto their OR lead and keep Kerri Walsh-Jennings out of the Olympics for the first time in this millennia? Or will she find a way to get it done and see her sixth Games?
We’ll know in just one week.