sponcil

The most-oft asked questions amongst the American beach volleyball community on Monday was a simple one: Did Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth have enough gas in the tank for one more tournament?

These past four weeks have been a globetrotting blitz for the two Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour rookies, zigzagging the world, from Texas to Turkey to Louisiana to Latvia, all in less than a month. Making matters even more difficult, in the sweetest of ways, was that Kloth and Nuss played almost as many matches as possible, making three consecutive finals and winning two.

But even with all the indefatigable energy of youth, even with all the precocious talent they possess, human beings have limits.

Or maybe they don’t.

Nuss and Kloth, on only a single day’s notice, took the last-second flight to Jurmala for this week’s Elite16 event, storming once more through another qualifier to make their first Elite16 main draw.

They weren’t the only Americans to do so. Sarah Sponcil and Terese Cannon, the top seeds in Wednesday’s qualifier, swept the home team in Latvians Anete Namike and 14-year-old sensation Liva Ebere, as well as Finland’s Niina Ahtiainen and Taru Lahti.

“We knew that they are really good players and Sponcil has a new partner so we tried testing her but she played really good,” Namike said. “I couldn’t really do much about it.”

With both Sponcil and Cannon, and Nuss and Kloth advancing, 25 percent of the remaining field is American. They’ll join Kelley Kolinske and Sara Hughes, the gold medallists from the Itapema Challenger, and Kelly Cheng and Betsi Flint, who won the recent AVP stop in New Orleans, defeating Nuss and Kloth in the finals.

hughes

hughes

The men’s field, of course, has a much different look to it. Four teams from four different countries advanced from the qualifier. Italy’s Sam Cottafava and Paolo Nicolai continued their torrid streak, making their sixth consecutive main draw of the season. Likewise, Austrians Phillipp Waller and Robin Seidl remain undefeated in qualifiers this season. Germans Clemens Wickler and Nils Ehlers stayed hot after their bronze medal performance in the Kusadasi Challenger, winning a pair of matches with relative ease to advance into the main draw. And Norway’s Hendrik Mol and Mathias Berntsen pushed their way into their first Elite16 main draw, surviving a three-set battle with Austria’s Martin Ermacora and Moritz Pristauz, 20-22, 21-16, 15-12.

While there are no friendly draws, there's an especially formidable one, as they’ll join a pair of Brazilians in Alison and Guto and Vitor Felipe and Renato Lima, as well as Tokyo Olympic bronze medallists Cherif Samba and Ahmed Tijan.

“It’s beautiful,” Alison said of Jurmala, in his first time competing in the city. “The country is beautiful. I think it’s a beautiful tournament. It will be a great fight, because Qatar won the bronze medal in the Olympics but I think it will be a good game. It’s good.”

Good games will be in abundance this weekend in Jurmala.

The only question: Who will have enough in the tank, after consecutive events in Kusadasi and Ostrava, to win gold?

“Playing Latvia is always a fight,” said Chaim Schalk, who will begin pool play against Ehlers and Wickler. “They’re one of the scrappiest countries in the world for beach volleyball. It’s always ‘Go go go!’ It’s always fun playing Latvia.”