Home Tokyo College Resour... News July 26 Report: Team...

July 26 Report: Team USA beach volleyball benefits from NCAA system

By Prince James Story, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Comunication | July 26, 2021, 2:03 p.m. (ET)

U.S. beach volleyball athletes Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil compete during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

For the first time in history, Team USA beach volleyball featured athletes who came up through the NCAA beach volleyball ranks.

Kelly Claes (USC, beach volleyball) and Sarah Sponcil (UCLA, beach volleyball) are the youngest pair in the sport to compete for Team USA in the Olympics. They defeated a Latvia team 2-1 that included another NCAA product, Tina Graudina (USC, beach volleyball), along with Anastasija Kravcenoka.

“I think with the NCAA, there’s going to be this huge, new generation of amazing athletes and we’re going to make that push back,” said Claes, 25, after the 21-13, 16-21, 15-11 victory. “It’s interesting to see how over the years how this is shifting. I think the U.S. is making this big push because of the NCAA.”

Beach volleyball at the collegiate level has been an option for less than a decade. And it wasn’t until 2014 that it was approved to become a championship NCAA Division I sport.

Previously, U.S. teams relied on players who competed indoors in college and some that played overseas in professional leagues

“When you start on the FIVB Tour, it’s really hard to get points. You have to play in smaller tournaments,” Claes said. “ A lot of athletes … in the U.S., this younger generation is coming up because of the NCAA, which is super exciting."

Tokyo talk

The U.S. softball team kept its win streak alive after defeating Japan 2-1 on Monday. Kelsey Stewart (Florida, softball) hit a walk-off home run to right field in the seventh inning to clinch the victory. 

-The women’s 3x3 basketball team continues its dominant showing in the Olympics with two more victories. Allisha Gray (South Carolina, basketball) and Stefanie Dolson (Connecticut, basketball) each scored six points, and they were the leading scorers in Team USA’s 17-13 win over Italy. Kelsey Plum (Washington, basketball) carried the offensive load in its next game against China, scoring 10 points and leading the U.S. to a 21-19 victory. 

-The U.S. men’s rugby sevens team won its first two matchups in pool play Monday. Madison Hughes (Dartmouth, rugby) scored to put Team USA ahead against Kenya with less than a minute to go in regulation, defeating Kenya 19-14. In its next match, the U.S. won 19-17 against Ireland. 

-Caeleb Dressel (Florida, swimming) led Team USA to its 10th Olympic gold medal in the Men’s 4x100 meter freestyle relay. The U.S. posted its third-fastest time ever in the Olympics. 

-The U.S. women’s water polo team stayed undefeated after its 12-7 victory over China. Makenzie Fischer (Stanford, water polo) made 3 of 4 shots and was Team USA’s leading scorer. 

Looking ahead

Hoping to follow in the footsteps of Olympic great Michael Phelps, Dressel hopes for multiple Olympic golds. Dressel won his first gold medal of the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday with the men’s 4 x100 meter relay team. He will be looking to win his first individual gold medal in these Olympic games. He will be competing in the qualifying heats in the 100-meter freestyle on July 27th, the 100-meter butterfly on July 29th and the 50-meter freestyle on July 30th. 

Quote of the day

"It may not have looked the best, the prettiest, but that may be our best win of the year.” – Team USA women’s water polo coach Adam Krikorian after a win over China


Prince James Story, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Comunication

Prince James Story is a journalism student at Arizona State University. This story is part of a collaboration between the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Related Athletes

head shot

Kelly Claes

head shot

Sarah Sponcil

head shot

Kelsey Stewart

head shot

Allisha Gray

head shot

Stefanie Dolson

head shot

Kelsey Plum

head shot

Madison Hughes

head shot

Caeleb Dressel

head shot

Makenzie Fischer