COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The FIVB World Tour and Olympic qualification draws near the end as teams make their first of two stops in Russia. Back in the U.S., the NCAA will celebrate its 90th Championship sport in the inaugural Beach Volleyball National Championship this week in Alabama.
Last week's biggest headline was the upset of 24-seed Emily Stockman and Amanda Dowdy taking down the defending FIVB Beach World Champions, Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas in Brazil at the Fortaleza Open. The pair stunned the Brazilians in three sets, en route to a career best international finish, fifth place.
As the World Champs fell, it opened the door for an American women's team to scout vulnerabilities against the Olympic host country, which has already qualified both of its teams.
In that race to take advantage of the exposed weaknesses, leading the way are April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings. The pair need just one more event to meet the qualification minimum of 12, which they will satisfy at the Cincinnati Open, May 16-22. Close behind the sixth-ranked team are Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat, who remain tied at 13th. Jennifer Kessy and Emily Day have ground to make up, sitting at 16th with only five events left to jump Fendrick/Sweat in the rankings.
|6||Kerri Walsh Jennings/April Ross||11||5,290||5||Jake Gibb/Casey Patterson||15||5,180|
|t13||Lauren Fendrick/Brooke Sweat||16||4,410||7||Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena||10||5,080|
|t16||Jennifer Kessy/Emily Day||17||3,980||t14||John Hyden/Tri Bourne||15||4,570|
The race on the men's side looks as if Jake Gibb/Casey Patterson and Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena are closing the door on John Hyden/Tri Bourne's chances of making the Olympics. Gibb and Patterson are currently the top U.S. men's team, ranking fifth with 5,180 points in 15 events, but Dalhausser and Lucena rank seventh with 5,080 points in 10 events. The gap between the two will only get closer in the next three weeks.
Dalhausser and Lucena are on pace to edge past Gibb and Patterson, who need to finish better than ninth for the remainder of the season to improve their provisional rankings and points. Meanwhile, Dalhausser and Lucena have eight medals during qualification, five gold, and their worst two finishes were a pair of fifth-place showings. Once the pair get their final two tournaments needed (and they're projected to play in Cincinnati, Moscow and Hamburg), if they continue at their current rate they could very well finish as the top American team in the standings.
Once the provisional Olympic rankings closes on June 13, the Top 15 (excluding Brazil) will earn quota spots for their country, with a maximum of two spots per gender, per country. The standings in the rankings will affect how teams are seeded in pool play at the Olympics. Seedings will be announced in July, once the final continental qualification tournaments have concluded.
FIVB ON TO FIRST OF TWO EVENTS IN RUSSIA
Four American teams make the trek to Sochi, Russia, for the first of two events to be held in the country in the month of May. Olympic hopefuls John Hyden and Tri Bourne are the lone men's team and are seeded seventh in the main draw. Coming in straight from Fortaleza, Brazil, Brittany Hochevar/Jennifer Fopma and Lane Carico/Summer Ross will look to improve upon their ninth-place finishes from last week. The third and final women's team is also fighting for a bid to the Games, Emily Day and Jennifer Kessy, who enter seeded seventh.
There are five events remaining before the Olympic rankings deadline of June 13. The FIVB World Tour will return back to Russia for the Moscow Grand Slam from May 24-29, in the second to last tournament before the provisional Olympic rankings closes.
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP IN ALABAMA THIS WEEK
Eight schools have been selected for the first ever NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship, to be held May 6-8 in Gulf Shores, Ala. As the newest National Championship sport, the field was selected from 60 institutions that sponsor beach volleyball. Three teams from the West and East regions, plus two at-large bids.
From the East: No. 1 Florida State, No. 7 Georgia State and No. 8 Stetson. From the West: No. 3 Pepperdine, No. 2 and the defending AVCA National Champions, USC, and No. 4 UCLA. At large bids went to Arizona and Hawaii. In total, the Pac-12 Conference has three schools attending the tournament.
The event will be televised live by Turner Networks and truTV will provide live coverage on Friday and Saturday from 3-6 p.m. ET. The championship round will air on TBS on Sunday, May 8, at 2 p.m. ET. Live streaming throughout the event will be provided on NCAA.com.
USA SHUT OUT OF GOLD IN PUNTA CANA
The USA was shut out of both the men's and women's gold medals on the NORCECA Tour for just the second time this season but still had three teams reach the podium in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Betsi Flint and Kelley Larsen earned silver, as did Taylor and Trevor Crabb. Geena Urango and Angela Bensend picked up bronze in their first international podium finish.
AVP HUNTINGTON BEACH OPEN TO AIR ON NBC SPORTS NETWORK
The AVP Huntington Beach Open opens play on Thursday, May 5. One of the pinnacle events in beach volleyball, the HBO is free and open to the public. Qualification rounds begin Thursday, followed by opening rounds on Friday and the finals on Sunday, May 8. Watch the action on NBC Sports Network on Sunday from 4-5:30 p.m. ET.
WEEK IN REVIEW
FIVB Fortaleza Open
- Jake Gibb/Casey Patterson finished fifth, their sixth Top 5 finish in Olympic qualification
- Emily Stockman/Amanda Dowdy finished fifth, beating the defending 2015 World Champions Agatha/Barbara from Brazil
- Tied for ninth: Lane Carico/Summer Ross; Jennifer Fopma/Brittany Hochevar; Kimberly DiCello/Kendra Vanzwieten
- Irene Pollock/Caitlin Ledoux tied for 17th
NORCECA Punta Cana
- Betsi Flint/Kelley Larsen won silver for their second medal of 2016
- Trevor Crabb/Taylor Crabb won silver, their fifth medal of 2016 and first silver
- Geena Urango/Angela Bensend finished third in their first international medal
- Ed Ratledge/Ty Loomis finished fourth
UPCOMING EVENTS | Add to your schedule
May 3-8 Sochi Open
May 5-8 AVP Huntington Beach Open
May 10-15 Antalya Open
May 11-16 U21 World Championships
May 17-22 Cincinnati Open
May 20-22 NVL Port St. Lucie
May 24-29 Moscow Grand Slam
June 2-5 AVP Seattle
June 7-12 Hamburg Grand Slam
June 14-19 Olsztyn Grand Slam
June 16-19 AVP New York City
June 24-26 NVL San Antonio
June 28-July 3 Porec Major
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