With Olympic qualification at stake, American teams took full advantage of the first points opportunity in nearly a year, with two men’s and two women’s teams in the medal matches for the first time in 10 years, according to the records at BVBinfo.com.
Accordingly, second-seeded April Ross and Alix Klineman will play for gold at 7:30 a.m. Pacific Friday in the FIVB 4-star Katara Beach Volleyball Cup in Doha, Qatar, against top-seeded Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan of Canada.
Kelley Kolinske and Emily Stockman, seeded 14th, will play for bronze at 5 a.m. Pacific against No. 3 Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduard Lisboa Duda of Brazil of Brazil.
Both American teams left on the men’s side — fourth-seeded Taylor Crabb and 10th-seeded Jake Gibb and Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena — play for bronze at 6:15 a.m. Pacific.
The men’s gold-medal match features the Czech Republic’s Ondrej Perusic and David Schweiner against Gustavo “Guto” Carvalhaes and Evandro Goncalves of Brazil at 8:45 a.m. Pacific.
The USA Olympic races changed a bit, too, with the women’s side tightening up a bit.
The USA has not advanced two pairs of teams to the semifinals since Shanghai 2011, when Dalhausser and Todd Rogers won gold, and Gibb and Sean Rosenthal took silver on the men’s side. That same year Ross and Jen Kessy won silver, and Lauren Fendrick and Brook Niles finished fourth.
Ross and Klineman cruised through the field with two straight-set wins, beating No. 5 Rebecca Cavalcanti and Ana Patricia Silva of Brazil (21-17, 21-19) and then Kolinske and Stockman (21-15, 21-16).
With Ross and Klineman at 8,760 Olympic points, their gold or silver medal in Doha will further pad their 2,000 point lead over their USA rivals, leaving the A-team flexibility to rest or play during the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics.
Kolinske and Stockman battled through their quarter by eliminating No. 24 Ksenia Dabizha and Daria Rudykh of Russia (21-13, 14-21, 16-14). Guaranteed at least fourth (560 points), Kolinske-Stockman made the biggest move (at least 240 points) this tournament, gaining significant ground toward the second USA Olympic berth.
Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil finished fifth after beating No. 9 Carolina Salgado and Barbara Seixas of Brazil (21-17, 15-21, 15-12) before another pair of Brazilians, No. 3 Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda Lisboa, eliminated them (21-14, 21-15).
With Claes and Sponcil finishing fifth, they cut the lead of Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat, who finished ninth, from 320 points to 240 with five events remaining.
Crabb and Gibb eliminated top-seeded Russians Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy (24-22, 21-15) before being relegated to the bronze match by Brazil’s Carvalhaes and Goncalves (26-24, 21-23, 15-11).
Crabb and Gibb will earn at least 560 points Friday, replacing a 320-point finish, extending a comfortable lead on all but Dalhausser and Lucena.
Dalhausser and Lucena put the Netherlands’ Steven van de Velde and Christiaan Varenhorst out of the tournament in straight sets (21-18, 21-16) before having an uncharacteristic off match against Czechs Ondrej Perusic and David Schweiner (21-9, 21-17).
The 2021 Doha finish is Dalhausser’s and Lucena’s 12th Olympic qualifier, so all of their 560-plus points will count, vaulting them to at least 6,616, surpassing Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb at 6,360.