Sunday, April 5

Former Bruins face top competitors, fall short at beach volleyball world championship

Sarah Sponcil graduated from UCLA beach volleyball in June and has now started competing for a spot in the 2020 Olympics. Sponcil and partner Kelly Claes placed ninth in the 2019 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships, and their run included an upset of the No. 1 seed. (Alice Naland/Daily Bruin)

Sarah Sponcil and Kelly Claes trailed the No. 1-seeded German pair of Chantal Laboureur and Sandra Ittlinger – which had the home-court advantage – 18-14 in the second set. If they had dropped three more points, they would have been eliminated.

The former Bruin and former Trojan, respectively, won seven of the next eight points in the set to force a third, and eventually took down the top seed 19-21, 21-19, 15-10 in the round of 32 of the Hamburg FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships.

Claes led the comeback for the No. 14-seeded United States duo, notching 32 points in the match.

But the run didn’t last, and Sponcil and Claes were eliminated in the next round with a 2-0 loss to Italians Marta Menegatti and Viktoria Orsi Toth. Sponcil and Claes – 22 and 23 years old, respectively – placed ninth overall in the world championships.

Prior to the elimination stages of the tournament, Sponcil and Claes went 2-1 in Pool I, notching 2-0 wins over Russia’s Ekaterina Birlova and Evgenia Ukolova and as well as Colombia’s Yuli Ayala and Diana Rios – both teams seeded below the U.S. duo.

Sponcil and Claes fell 2-1 to the No. 9 seed pair of Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes of Canada, but still advanced past pool play into the round of 32.

Other former Bruins Nicole and Megan McNamara entered the world championships as the No. 34 seed and went 1-2 in Pool A, including a 2-0 loss to Laboureur and Ittlinger – the same pair Sponcil and Claes defeated in the round of 32.

The McNamaras were sent to the Lucky Losers draw with a chance to extend their tournament run, but fell 2-0 to Germany’s Leonie Körtzinger and Sarah Schneider.

Pavan and Humana-Paredes earned first place and an automatic Olympic berth for Tokyo 2020 with a 2-0 win over the U.S. duo of April Ross and Alexandra Klineman in the final. While the McNamaras and Sponcil were unable to bring home the title for Canada or the U.S., respectively, their nations were still represented in the championship.

Sponcil, Nicole McNamara and Megan McNamara will continue to compete in the FIVB international circuit with hopes of qualifying for the Olympics, with the next tournament taking place Monday through Sunday in Gstaad, Switzerland.

Assistant Sports editor

Dzwonczyk is currently an assistant Sports editor for the women's basketball, women's soccer, beach volleyball, men's golf and women's golf beats. She was previously a reporter on the women's soccer, beach volleyball and women's tennis beats.

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