Kelly Claes, Sarah Sponcil bounced from Olympics in beach volleyball loss


Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil, the American beach volleyball pairing, have been ousted from the Tokyo Olympics.

After winning the first set in their Round of 16 match Sunday, the American duo lost in three sets to Canada’s Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson, 22-24, 21-18, 15-13.

Claes and Sponcil trailed 11-6 in the first set but rallied to take the early lead at 19-18 before Bansley’s hit rolled across the net and out.

In the second, the Canadians were able to rally and force a tiebreaking third set, where the first to 15 wins and must win by two points. They led 12-11 when Sponcil’s serve flew past them and bounced off the sand.

Canada appeared to take a 13-11 lead after the hit, but the Americans’ challenge declared the ball in despite replays showing it missed the tape. Canada disputed the result and, on further review, it was ruled out.

From there, Wilkerson, a first-time Olympian, knocked down a pass at the net for a triple-set point. Canada captured the win on a Wilkerson kill to advance to the quarterfinals.

Claes, 25, and Sponcil, 24, came to Tokyo with great momentum as the youngest American team ever to qualify for the Olympic beach volleyball tournament. Claes and Sponcil are each two-time NCAA champions — at UCLA and Southern California, respectively.

In the process of qualifying for the Games, they knocked out five-time Olympian Kerri Walsh Jennings.