American beach duo Claes/Sponcil tested in Olympic debut


Kelly Claes, left, of the United States, and teammate Sarah Sponcil react during a women’s beach volleyball match against Latvia at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

TOKYO (NBC Olympics) — Tested under pressure in their Olympic debut Monday, the U.S. duo of Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil responded like seasoned vets.

Roaring back from a big third-set deficit, Claes/Sponcil ripped off the final six points of the match to beat the Latvian duo of Tina Graudina and Anastaija Kravcenoka in a Pool D preliminary.

“I was definitely nervous at the beginning,” Sponcil told NBC.

It didn’t show, as the newcomers captured the first set, 21-13. Latvia evened things up with a tremendous defensive effort in the second set, 21-16, and jumped out to an 11-9 lead before Claes/Sponcil turned it around.

“It’s for sure been a wild ride,” offered Claes, who started playing with Sponcil in 2019. “But I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else.”

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