*USA beach volleyball match times & channels below*
The playoff stage is set, and all 11 AVP Olympic athletes advance to the Round of 16. My muscles may be atrophying from all my Olympic viewing, but I’ve vowed, once The Games conclude, to get in the best shape of my life to be more like these national treasures. Never mind that I promise that during every Olympics – it’s for sure happening this time. I am so ready for this knockout round of beach volleyball. Let’s get into what happened in pool play and what’s next for Team USA and our AVP athletes.
To understand the color code, check out this bracket. Below are the updated versions.
The A-Team only dropped one set on their way to the Round of 16, proving their dominance on the world stage. In their first match against China, April and Alix kept a steady lead until the end of the second set. Down 18-19, they finished with a 3-0 run to seal the deal in 2 sets (21-17; 21-19). They then cruised to a victory over Spain’s Liliana and Elsa (21-13; 21-16).
Their final pool play match was against the #2-seed in their pool, the tough Dutch team of Keizer and Meppelink. A-Team coach Angie Akers knows this team well as she spent years in the Netherlands coaching. In a torrential downpour, April and Alix battled tooth and nail to win in 3 sets (20-22; 21-17; 15-5). As you can see from the scores, the A-Team came out firing in the third set. The Dutch women couldn’t handle Alix’s float serve in the rain or the A-Team’s overall composure under pressure.
April and Alix now sit at the bottom of the bracket opposite their Canadian rivals (Sarah Pavan and Melissa) and USA counterparts (Sponcil and Claes). That means they wouldn’t meet either of those two teams until the Gold Medal Match. They would, however, meet some familiar Olympic faces. If the A-Team wins their first match, they’d play the winner of Ludwig/Kozuch vs. Agatha/Duda. Ludwig beat Agatha in the Rio 2016 Finals while April Ross secured the Bronze. In this little section of the bracket, we have all three Rio Medals! Ready for those grudge matches. But before they face one of those two teams, April and Alix have to get past their first playoff match against a Lucky Loser. In the Round of 16, April and Alix will play Cuba’s Lidy and Leila on SUNDAY, AUGUST 1st at 5PM PACIFIC ON NBC.
Team Slaes also won their pool with three victories but did so with a little more drama. Their first and third matches were 3-set nailbiters, giving all of us a thrill and a little anxiety.
In their first match against Latvia’s Graudina and Kravcenoka, Team Slaes started strong. Latvia fired back in the second set, making all the proper adjustments to win it handily. The third was neck and neck until a side switch saw the Americans down 9-11. Kelly Claes then put on a net play clinic, clinching the victory with a 6-point run. Kelly had two stuff blocks and two more gorgeous moves off the net to seal it.
Sponcil and Claes’ second match was a cakewalk, 24-minute win against Kenya’s Makokha and Khadambi (21-8; 21-6). Their final pool play match to either win pool or enter a 3-way tie with Brazil and Latvia was another 3-set whirlwind. In the end, Team Slaes started the third set extremely strong and took the match (17-21; 21-19; 15-11) and took top billing in Pool D.
Team Slaes’ initial knockout match will give us our first AVP matchup. In the Round of 16, Sponcil and Claes will play Heather Bansley and AVP darling Brandie Wilkerson of Canada on SATURDAY, JULY 31st at 5PM PACIFIC ON NBC. The last meeting of these two teams ironically happened at the Tokyo test event in 2019. Canada eeked out a 3-set win 15-13, but we all know Team Slaes is an entirely different team these days.
If Sponcil and Claes win, they get the winner of Russia and Latvia. If Latvia wins, we could have a Pool D rematch in the Quarterfinals. Slaes is on the opposite side of the bracket from the A-Team, but they’d face Pavan and Melissa (if all kept winning) in the Semifinals. There’s a long history between those two teams, so we’ll touch base in a few days if that matchup comes to fruition.
Now for the Men.
With all the adversity for both teams, I’m incredibly proud of our USA Mens’ performances. They both secured spots in the Round of 16 without a Lucky Loser match. Fun note – if both teams keep winning, they’d face each other in the Semifinals and would both have a chance for a Medal.
Phil Dalhausser – who was quarantined due to close contact with Taylor Crabb – and partner Nick Lucena came out a little slow in their first match against Rio Bronze Medalists Brouwer and Meeuwsen and lost 17-21, 18-21. With Phil being trapped in a hotel room for multiple days, only being able to practice with each other, and having to wait until the end of the day for treatment – it’s no surprise the 41-year-old Floridians were a little sticky.
They rallied in full force, winning their next two matches against great teams. In their second match against Brazilians Alison and Alvaro, Phil and Nick stayed together and finished well. It was hot and humid, and the game lasted over an hour, but Phil’s blocks and Nick’s fire led them to a 15-13 victory in the third. Their following win against Argentina (21-19, 18-21, 15-6) put them in a 3-way tie with Brazil and the Netherlands.
Ultimately, Phil and Nick came out third in their pool due to the tiebreaker. That meant they were set to play the winner of Pool C – which just so happened to be Jake Gibb and Tri Bourne’s pool. I was torn between wanting USA v. USA in the Round of 16. Alas – it didn’t happen as Jake and Tri fell to Cherif and Ahmed of Qatar. In the Round of 16, Phil and Nick will play the Qataris Cherif and Ahmed on SATURDAY, JULY 31st at 9PM PACIFIC on NBC.
And now for one of my favorite Olympic stories – beach volleyball’s newest team Jake Gibb and Tri Bourne. If you haven’t already checked out the McKibbin Brother’s latest video, you need to right now. The Last Olympian is Bourne – it’s so good. Why didn’t I think of that title?
GibBourne came out of the gate HOT and took their first match against Italians Carambula and Rossi in straight sets (21-18; 21-19). They had an 8-2 lead in the first set, shocking everyone (especially the Italians) with their easy chemistry. Their next match against the Swiss duo of Heidrich and Gerson was another two-set sweep (21-19, 23-21). Jake and Tri started to split block a little, and Jake even got a dig during match point. In his post-game interview, he said he had fun playing defense behind Tri but didn’t know what to do after getting a dig. So funny.
Jake and Tri fell short in their final pool play match against Qatar, losing 18-21, 17-21. Qatar switched the game plan that other teams had used and served Jake instead of Tri. In the end, Jake and Tri still finished 2nd in pool and won’t have to play their fellow countrymen right away. In the Round of 16, Jake and Tri will play Germans Thole and Wickler on MONDAY, AUGUST 2nd at 6AM PACIFIC on USA NETWORK.
Though he flew home to Hawaii once he was cleared, Taylor Crabb is still very involved with the team. Coach Rich Lambourne FaceTimes him into practices, and Taylor lends his volleyball IQ to game planning. Jake said in an interview that it’s a little unfair – they’re a 3-man team against an Olympic field of 2-person duos. The reframing of a challenging situation is exactly why they were able to find success so quickly. Let’s hope they take that positive energy into the next phase of the Games.
Our final AVP Team is the international powerhouse duo – Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes. They cruised through pool play and set themselves up nicely with a Lucky Loser 3rd-place team. In the Round of 16, Sarah and Mel will play Spaniards Liliana and Elsa on SUNDAY, AUGUST 1st at 6PM PACIFIC. I’m hoping it’s on the NBC Network multisport coverage, but they haven’t been featuring non-USA teams consistently. You can watch live on the NBC Olympics App if you have a cable provider, which has been my bread and butter this last week.
Happy viewing, and meet me back here in a few days for more AVP Athlete Olympic coverage.