LONG BEACH, Calif. – USA Volleyball’s beach athletes earned silver and bronze in the women’s finals at the Long Beach Presidents Volleyball Cup on Saturday. April Ross and Lauren Fendrick earned silver, and Sara Hughes and Kelly Claes took bronze.

USA was guaranteed spots in the women’s bronze and gold medal matches at the Long Beach Presidents Volleyball Cup, an exhibition event that pitted USA vs The World. Americans faced off against each other in pool play, eight teams broken into two pools. From there, USA worked through the single-elimination bracket up to the semifinals, where April Ross/Lauren Fendrick topped Sara Hughes/Kelly Claes in a dramatic three-set match.

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The semifinal featured four athletes that attended the University of Southern California, just up the road from the site of the tournament. The 2016 USC graduates, Claes/Hughes, picked up the first set, 21-19. The veterans Ross/Fendrick were able to pick up the next two frames, 21-19, 15-11 to close out the match, and earn their spot in the final against Brazil’s Talita Antunes/Larissa Franca.

In the finale, Brazil maintained their control of the pace throughout, beating Ross/Fendrick 21-15, 21-17.

“April and I have had a bit of a stop and start to our season,” said Fendrick after the match. “We didn’t have a preseason together, and we got together a little bit late. We started to get a little bit of momentum going from Moscow to New York, then April broke her toe and we had to have three weeks apart.

“Each match that we’ve played, last week in Gstaad, and this week here, one: she’s healing, two: it’s like our preseason.” Fendrick continued, “We’ve been getting better each match and that feels good. I’m excited for Poland and Worlds (Championships) and that’s been our plan all along, to build towards Worlds. It feels like we’re going in the right direction.”

Claes and Hughes moved in the right direction too on Saturday. The duo took down one of the sharpest teams in the world, Germany’s Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst, for the bronze medal. They earned their spot on the podium after coming back from their semifinal loss to beat the 2016 Olympic gold medalists, 21-17, 21-14.

“It was tough to come back, especially when we lost the semifinal,” said Hughes. “We wanted that bronze so bad. We took it to them, that’s what did, and we’re really excited.”

The unique formatting provided a lot of unique matchups, especially with the new partnerships that began in 2017. In one pool, Ross faced off with her former partner Kerri Walsh Jennings, which happened on day one of the event. Brooke Sweat and Summer Ross played more Americans on Friday than they previously had all season. In the quarterfinals, Fendrick faced her former partner, in Sweat.

With all the tough matches between just the American duos, the road to gold only got tougher at the end with the stacked international teams in the mix. Of the final four women’s international teams, they combine for a total of 26 FIVB World Tour tournament wins. Getting through deep and experienced pool play was a unique experience for all in this exhibition event. No FIVB World Tour points were awarded, the experience gained was invaluable for all though. The U.S. featured their premiere women’s athletes on the tour this season:

– April Ross/Lauren Fendrick: Have two Top 25 finishes, tied for ninth in first event of 2017
– Sara Hughes/Kelly Claes: Two Top 5 finishes, including in their first stop of the season
– Brooke Sweat/Summer Ross: Three Top 5 World Tour finishes, including one silver
– Brittany Hochevar/Emily Day: Six Top 25 finishes, four Top 10
– Kimberly DiCello/Emily Stockman: Three Top 10 finishes, gold in Langkawi
– Kerri Walsh Jennings/Nicole Branagh: Tied for ninth in Switzerland one week ago
– Lane Carico/Caitlin Ledoux: Duo coming from partner changes to combine for this tournament
– Betsi Flint/Kelley Larsen: Won gold in their first World Tour stop of 2017

Action continues on Sunday with the men’s semifinals, starting at 10 a.m. PT on ESPN3, followed by the bronze medal match at 1:15 p.m. PT, and the gold medal match at 3 p.m. PT, live on ESPN3. The USA is guaranteed a team in both the gold and bronze medal matches.

At 10 a.m. PT, Theo Brunner/Casey Patterson will play Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena, with the winner set to face the victor from the international teams’ semifinal: Sam Pedlow/Sam Schachter (Canada) versus Piotr Kantor/Bartosz Losiak (Poland).

The women’s gold medal match will re-air on ABC at Noon ET on July 15. Matches will also be shown on replay on ESPN2 on July 17 and 18.

Long Beach Presidents Cup – exhibition 
Athletes    Coach Entry
Brooke Sweat  Summer Ross Ty Tramblie Main Draw
Lauren Fendrick April Ross Jon Daze  Main Draw
Kelly Claes  Sara Hughes   Main Draw
Brittany Hochevar Emily Day Hector Gutierrez Main Draw
Kerri Walsh Jennings  Nicole Branagh Marcio Sicoli  Main Draw
Emily Stockman Kimberly DiCello Jennifer Snyder  Main Draw
Betsi Flint Kelley Larsen Scott Davenport Main Draw
Lane Carico Caitlin Ledoux   Main Draw
Heather McGuire Kendra Vanzwieten   Reserve
       
Phil Dalhausser Nick Lucena Jason Lochhead Main Draw
Casey Patterson  Theo Brunner Rich Lambourne Main Draw
Jake Gibb Taylor Crabb Marcio Sicoli  Main Draw
John Hyden Ryan Doherty   Main Draw
Sean Rosenthal Trevor Crabb Jeff Alzina  Main Draw
Stafford Slick Billy Allen Jon Daze  Main Draw
Marty Lorenz Mark Burik   Main Draw
Casey Jennings Bill Kolinske Gustavo Rocha  Main Draw

WEEK IN REVIEW
Long Beach Presidents Cup
– Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena and Casey Patterson/Theo Brunner still to play on Sunday
– 2nd Place: April Ross/Lauren Fendrick, duo went 2-1 in pool play after forfeiting their final pool match, beat two U.S. teams in single elimination before falling to Brazil in the final
– 3rd Place: Sara Hughes/Kelly Claes, best finish against the international field of play (best on FIVB World Tour is tying for fifth)
– Tied for fifth: Summer Ross/Brooke Sweat, Kimberly DiCello/Emily Stockman; Taylor Crabb/Jake Gibb, John Hyden/Ryan Doherty
– Tied for ninth: Emily Day/Brittany Hochevar, Kerri Walsh Jennings/Nicole Branagh; Billy Allen/Ed Ratledge, Casey Jennings/Bill Kolinske
– Tied for 13th: Betsi Flint/Kelley Larsen, Lane Carico/Caitlin Ledoux; Sean Rosenthal/Trevor Crabb, Mark Burik/Marty Lorenz

UPCOMING EVENTS | Add to your schedule
July 12-16 FIVB Long Beach Presidents Cup
July 14-16 NORCECA Varadero
July 19-23 FIVB Olsztyn 4-Star
July 20-22 FIVB Ulsan 1-Star
July 20-23 AVP Hermosa Beach
July 20-25 Junior Beach Tour Championships
July 21-23 FIVB Agadir 1-Star
July 28-30 FIVB Espinho 2-Star
July 28-Aug. 6 FIVB Beach World Championships
July 31-Aug. 2 USA Junior Beach Championships

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