COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – As the FIVB World Tour takes a two-week break, USAV U21 athletes earn gold in Australia in preview to this summer’s U21 World Championships.

After three FIVB World Tour events this calendar year that the U.S. has played in, three teams in both genders stand within the provisional Olympic rankings qualifying cutoff.

A bittersweet silver medal at the Vitoria Open last weekend wasn’t what April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings were hoping for, but the result still yielded positive outcomes. The pair entered the tournament as the No. 3 U.S. team, but with 450 points earned from their second-consecutive podium finish, they’ve jumped to the top of the American teams and now are 11th in rankings after nine events.

Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson logged their third-consecutive ninth-place finish down in Vitoria, Brazil. After 13 events played, they will keep their 12-best finishes through the rest of the qualifying season. The duo gained an edge last week as their top two competitors on the USA men’s side sat out. Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena were 10th in provisional rankings but after opting out of the Vitoria Open, fall to 13th. Tri Bourne played with Mark Burik, but his points with John Hyden have stalled as the duo hasn’t played since Maceio, they fall to 16th but fortunately are not far out of the mix because they have secured the 12 needed events and have 4,240 points, just 340 off of Dalhausser/Lucena.

The race on the women’s side has gotten closer as well. Ross and Walsh Jennings take the lead with nine events (4,390 points) thanks to a pair of podium finishes in their first two events this month. Mixed finishes between Lauren Fendrick/Brooke Sweat and Jennifer Kessy/Emily Day has the two teams now battling for the No. 2 U.S. spot. Fendrick and Sweat are just 60 points behind Walsh and Ross (12th) and Kessy and Day have 3,920 points, both teams are well over the 12 event mark, at 14 and 15, respectively.

The cutoff date for securing the U.S. a quota spot for the 2016 Olympic Games is June 13. With how the teams look now, every American team is in good shape to meet the 12 events needed and the top three teams in both genders are currently within the qualifying rankings. Ross/Walsh Jennings and Dalhausser/Lucena each have nine, but there are nine men’s and eight women’s events left on the Tour in the ranking timeline.

Provisional Olympic Rankings | As of March 21, 2016
 Women EventsPoints   EventsPoints
11Kerri Walsh Jennings/April Ross 4,390 5Jake Gibb/Casey Patterson 13 5,060
12 Lauren Fendrick/Brooke Sweat 144,330 13Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena 94,580
t15 Jennifer Kessy/Emily Day 153,920 t16John Hyden/Tri Bourne 124,240

The FIVB World Tour heads into a two-week break following the Vitoria Open. Next up is a men’s only Open in Doha, Qatar from April 4-10, followed by a dual gender swing through China. Teams will head to the Xiamen Open, April 12-17, followed by the Fuzhou Open, April 19-24.

The last time the U.S. played in Doha, Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena finished second and John Hyden and Tri Bourne earned third. In 2015, Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross earned their first medal of the Olympic qualifying season at the Fuzhou Open, with bronze. In Xiamen, Dalhausser and Lucena picked up what was their third medal of the season and their first gold as a team.

Sarah Sponcil and Torrey Van Winden went 4-0 at the Four Nations U21 tournament on Manly Beach, Sydney, Australia this past week. The pair used a three-set, 21-23, 21-19, 15-13 victory against Brazil’s Victoria Tosta/Ana Ramos on Tuesday to claim the title.

The Australian Volleyfest tournament featured women’s teams from Australia, Brazil and Japan. All four teams competing in the event will also play at the FIVB U21 World Championships in Lucerne, Switzerland from May 11-16.

“We came into this not knowing what any of these teams were going to look like,” said Van Widen of the teams present. “We knew that all of them were really strong countries. We jumped at the opportunity and were stoked to get a first glance at them before Switzerland.”

Sponcil and Van Winden opened play on Monday with a sweep of Brazil’s Tosta/Ramos 21-16, 21-14. They followed with a win that afternoon against the host country’s Britt Kendall/Shelby Maher, 21-15, 21-7. On Tuesday, Sponcil and Van Widen topped Japan 21-11, 21-23, 15-7, which allowed them to win the pool 3-0 and advance to the gold medal match.

After dropping the first set 23-21, Sponcil and Van Widen got off to a slow start in the second frame, falling behind by as much as four at the 7-11 mark. After tying it at 12-all the lead teeter-tottered until the U.S. pulled ahead at 19-18 and kept the lead to close it 21-19. The third and final set saw the pair edge ahead after the 9-8 point and never let go, winning the match and the tournament on the 15-13 score.

“Everyone battled it out, it was point-for-point,” Sponcil said afterward. “It was a great match for both teams.”

FIVB Vitoria Open
– Kerri Walsh Jennings/April Ross won silver, their fourth podium finish in 2016 Olympic qualification
– Tied for ninth: Jake Gibb/Casey Patterson, Jennifer Fopma/Brittany Hochevar, Jennifer Kessy/Emily Day
– Tied for 17th: Sean Rosenthal/Theo Brunner, Tri Bourne/Mark Burik
– Tied for 25th: Lauren Fendrick/Brooke Sweat tied for 25th
– Eliminated in qualification were: Derek Olson/Jeremy Casebeer, Summer Ross/Lane Carico


April 4-8 Doha Open (Men only)
April 12-17 Xiamen Open
April 14-17 AVP New Orleans
April 19-24 Fuzhou Open
April 26-May 1 Fortaleza Open

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

Related Links
FIVB 2016 FIVB World Tour update following FIVB Vitoria Open in Brazil

FIVB Youtube Casey Patterson: A day in the life

FIVB Discovering the secret of winning at home

NBC Sports Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross swept by Brazil Olympic Favorites

FIVB Brazil vs. United States for women’s gold in Vitoria

FIVB Top Dutch & American men’s teams meet on Vitoria’s Camburi beach Friday
FIVB Crazy results

FIVB Ross cherishes elimination bye

FIVB Hochevar & Fopma: following defeats, four Vitoria wins