Tuesday, 30 May 2023

International Volleyball

Kelly Cheng, Sara Hughes last undefeated Americans

Kelly Cheng-Sara Hughes-Uberlandia Elite 16

Before Thursday, Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes had not yet played Sarah Sponcil and Terese Cannon. One could have figured on safely betting that their first meeting would have come at an AVP this season, where they are likely to cross paths somewhere around half a dozen times this year. But, of course, the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour has essentially become a who’s who on the AVP Tour when it comes to the North American women.

So it was in Uberlandia, Brazil, for this weekend’s Uberlandia Elite16 that they’d play one another for the first time, one of two all-USA matchups that will occur in pool play alone.

Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes celebrate a point at the Uberlandia Elite16/Volleyball World photo

“We knew our first match would be tough against our fellow Americans,” Hughes said after a 21-19, 21-17 win over Sponcil and Cannon. “We just focused on our side of the court and came in with a good game plan. Kelly and I both felt like our side out game helped us win that match.”

Hughes and Cheng are the only Americans to walk away from Thursday unscathed, though it’s also notable that they were just one of two American teams to play a single match, the other being Sponcil — Cheng’s Tokyo Olympic teammate — and Cannon.

Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth split, dropping their opener to world No. 1 Ana Patricia Silva and Duda Lisboa (18-21, 17-21) before rebounding with a sweep over Germans Karla Borger and Sandra Ittlinger (21-15, 21-17). Also in Pool A, Betsi Flint and Julia Scoles lost both, to the aforementioned Germans (18-21, 19-21) and Brazilians (13-21, 17-21). Nuss and Kloth and Scoles and Flint will meet one another to finish out Pool A, where Scoles and Flint need a sweep over Nuss and Kloth to advance, and even then, it would come down to points, which are not in the favor of Flint and Scoles, who hold a -17 point differential. A win will assure Nuss and Kloth to advance at least to the ninth-place rounds.

Kristen Nuss-Taryn Kloth-Uberlandia Elite 16
Kristen Nuss hits a ball at the Uberlandia Elite 16/Volleyball World photo

Both Cheng and Hughes and Sponcil and Cannon will have two matches on Friday, beginning with 4 a.m. Pacific bouts. Cannon and Sponcil begin with Taina Silva and Victoria Lopes, the silver medalists from last weekend’s Saqaurema Challenge. Hughes and Cheng will see Latvians Tina Graudina and Anastasija Samoilova. At noon, those matches will flip, with Sponcil and Cannon matching up with Latvia and Hughes and Cheng with…

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