Team USA men and women don’t get to play much four-on-four beach volleyball on an international level, but you wouldn’t know that based on their performance on Wednesday.
Both the men’s and women’s teams won gold medals at the inaugural Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) World Beach Games in Doha, Qatar.
Something of a cross between beach volleyball and indoor volleyball, each team had a roster of six players.
On the women’s roster were Karissa Cook, Geena Urango, Emily Hartong, Kelly Reeves, Katie Spieler and Allie Wheeler.
The women were first up on the final schedule, facing Brazil in the gold-medal match. Brazil handed the U.S. its only loss of the tournament in group play, 21-13, 21-12, but the rematch was a different story. The U.S. won the first set, 21-16, and the second set wasn’t nearly as close. Ready to wrap things up, the U.S. surged to a 21-9 victory for the first-ever women’s title. The Americans also defeated Canada, 21-11, 21-16, in the semifinals to reach the title match and Vanuatu, 21-6, 21-9, in the quarterfinals.
The men’s roster consisted of Brian Cook, Taylor Crabb, Troy Field, Maddison McKibbin, Riley McKibbin and Olympian Casey Patterson. After losing to Germany and Qatar and beating Indonesia in group play, the U.S. blew past Mozambique in the quarterfinals, 21-14, 21-13, then beat Indonesia again in the semifinals, 21-15, 21-12, to advance to the final for a rematch against Qatar.
The U.S. took the first set, 21-18, but the host nation wasn’t ready to fall without a fight. The U.S. took a lead in the second set but Qatar tied it several times, including once at 23-23 and then again at 24-24. That’s where the battle ended, however, with the U.S. scoring the next two points for the win.
This is the inaugural year for the ANOC World Beach Games. Originally scheduled to be held in San Diego, the event was moved to Doha in June because of a lack of funding. The event was also initially supposed to be held in September 2017 but in August 2016 the Games were postponed to this month. The event features 14 disciplines in 13 sports.