Olympic seashore volleyball puts higher education stars on exhibit | Sports

TOKYO (AP) — Beach volleyball’s potential was on display screen at the Shiokaze Park venue Monday early morning for the Olympic debut of Individuals Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil.

Three of the 4 players in the U.S. victory over Latvia arrived up by way of an NCAA beach front volleyball software that has only been close to considering that 2012. Claes and Latvia’s Tina Graudina both equally went to Southern California, and Sponcil performed at rival UCLA. (USC mentor Dain Blanton, the 2000 Olympic gold medalist, was courtside doing work for NBC.)

For previous generations — like the other U.S. women’s workforce, 39-calendar year-outdated April Ross and her 31-12 months-old lover Alix Klineman — college seashore volleyball was not an alternative.

“I assume a great deal of athletes in the U.S., this youthful generation is coming up since of the NCAA, which is super fascinating,” Claes said soon after the a few-set victory in excess of her fellow Trojan and Anastasija Kravcenoka. “I’m truly energized to see just how the sport grows even far more mainly because of that.”

Since seashore volleyball was additional to the Olympics in 1996, it has been pressured to count on gamers who switched around just after taking part in indoors in higher education and probably even beyond in European or Brazilian specialist leagues. But the varsity seashore volleyball software has given Claes, 25, and Sponcil, 24, an option that wasn’t readily available to their predecessors. (Adult men continue to do not have a university seashore system in the U.S.)

The People hope that by starting off on the seashore earlier, they can get back again to dominating the sport like they did when Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May well-Treanor ended up winning a few straight Olympic gold medals. In Rio de Janiero, Walsh Jennings and Ross took bronze for the only American medal — the worst U.S. haul ever.

“It’s been really amazing to see just the pendulum of beach volleyball all-around the environment how it is kind of shifted,” Claes reported. “The U.S. has kind of been at the forefront for so lengthy with Misty and Kerri. And then I imagine the relaxation of the environment form of caught up and handed us. With the NCAA, there’s likely to be this substantial new generation of astounding athletes. And I think we’re heading to make that form of press back.”

Sponcil mentioned that when she was rising up in Phoenix, youthful women would contend indoors in faculty and maybe have a likelihood to perform on the beach front only in the summer. There were being no seaside volleyball golf equipment in the region now there are 10 or additional.

“The ladies are starting up a ton young. It is mad,” she stated. “And men and women are just picking out that as their activity. So it is seriously cool that so a lot of girls are likely beach front from the get-go, and they’re heading to be that substantially far better when they get to university and skilled.”

Even in Latvia, Graudina felt the pull.

And when she was going to colleges, it was Claes who hosted her and confirmed her all over. She picked USC and led the Trojans to this year’s national championship Claes and Sponcil every single gained again-to-again NCAA titles even though in faculty.

Although they are rivals on football weekends, it was Claes and Sponcil who teamed up for the 21-13, 16-21, 15-11 victory on Monday, scoring the very last six factors of the third set and successful with a minor USC-on-USC criminal offense: a spike from Claes that slammed off Graudina.

“We’ve dropped to them the previous two instances (on the international tour), so there were plenty of vengeful thoughts likely into the match,” Claes mentioned. “But it was definitely exciting, a minimal little bit nerve-wracking going into it.”

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Additional AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sport

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