BPT Challenge Itapema - USAvsJPN_2387

Kloth sets partner Nuss during the qualifier in Itapema

Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss are set to take on some of the leading teams in international beach volleyball on Friday, after the Americans survived the qualifier and made it to the main draw of the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Challenge event in Itapema, Brazil.

· Watch all the matches of the Itapema Challenge live or on demand on Volleyball TV.

The 25-year-old Kloth and the 24-year-old Nuss are playing in just the second international event of their careers this week in Brazil. They started on the right foot, by taking gold in the first Beach Pro Tour Futures tournament, which was played in Coolangatta, Australia, two weeks ago.

Kloth and Nuss are one of the fastest-rising American women’s teams right now. The two won the country’s collegiate national championship last year with Louisiana State University and a few months later triumphed in an event on the American national tour, the AVP.

BPT Challenge Itapema - USAvsJPN_2320

Nuss prepares to serve against the Japanese

In Itapema, the two will have a golden opportunity to collect valuable ranking points to add to the 400 they picked up in Australia. Those points can get them into other Challenge events and perhaps even into some Elite16 tournaments later in the season.

“We’re super excited,” Kloth commented. “We knew it was going to be so tough to make it through the qualifier with so many great teams competing here. Making it to the main draw is a nice way to finish off the day and we now need to get ready for tomorrow. Everything’s been absolutely wonderful here in Brazil and it’s been a blessing for us to be here.”

Seeded 20th in the qualifier, the Americans had to deal with two very different matches on Thursday. While they dominated Danish players Sofia Bisgaard and Clara Windeleff in a straight-set (21-15, 21-19) victory in the morning, the newcomers came from behind to top Japanese pair Akiko Hasegawa and Yurika Sakaguchi 2-1 (12-21, 21-18, 15-12).

Nuss/Kloth vs. Hasegawa/Sakaguchi -Match Highlights

The pair of victories guaranteed the Americans an opportunity to test their game against some of the best teams in the world for the first time in their careers.

“The Japanese have excellent ball control and they managed to put us in uncomfortable situations,” Nuss added. “We came out slow and they hit us in the first set, but we were able to regroup and fight back, which is what we do. We expect more battles in the main draw. There are some of the best teams in the world here and we’re excited to compete with them and see how everything plays out.”

On Friday, the Americans and the seven other teams that advanced from the women’s qualifier will join the 16 duos automatically guaranteed a place in the main draw. As per the modified pool play system, each team will play twice, with the three best-ranked duos in each of the six pools making it to the elimination round.

Bukovec Brandie

Canadians Bukovec and Wilkerson smile after they qualified to the main draw

Besides the Americans, the following teams also advanced: Germany’s Chantal Laboureur/Sarah Schulz and Sandra Ittlinger/Isabel Schneider, Canada’s Brandie Wilkerson/Sophie Bukovec, Switzerland’s Esmee Bobner/Zoe Verge-Depre, France’s Alexia Richard/Lezana Placette, Italy’s Margherita Bianchin/Claudia Scampoli and the Netherlands’ Emi van Driel/Pleun Ypma.

In the men’s tournament, hosts Brazil got to add two more teams through the qualifier to the four which were automatically given a place in the main draw. The nation started the day with six teams in contention in the qualifier, in a scenario that was only possible because the Beach Pro Tour doesn’t limit the number of teams a country can have in the main draw, unlike the FIVB World Tour. But only two of those six got through the day to progress to tomorrow's action.

One of those teams, composed of Arthur Mariano and Adrielson dos Santos, had to eliminate a pair of compatriots to do so. In arguably the most exciting match of the men’s qualifiers, the pair topped fellow Brazilians Pedro Solberg and Arthur Lanci 2-1 (21-16, 22-24, 15-13) to secure the right to play in the main draw of a Beach Pro Tour event for the first time (after they failed to qualify at the Tlaxcala Challenge).

“Playing against other Brazilian teams is always difficult and that’s even more the case with Arthur (Lanci) as he practices with us in Maringa and we’re close friends,” Adrielson commented. “It’s a great feeling to be in the main draw and we’re already looking forward to tomorrow. Hopefully we can win our matches and make it to the next round.”

Arthur/Adrielson vs. Pedro Solberg/Arthur - Match Highlights

The other Brazilian team to advance featured Rio 2016 Olympic champion Bruno Schmidt and partner Saymon Barbosa. The two came out on top of a nail-bitter against 21-year-old Latvians Ardis Bendritis and Arturs Rinkevics, winning 2-1 (21-16, 22-24, 15-12).

If most Brazilians weren’t able to capitalize on the home-court advantage, other South American countries were, and will increase the continent’s representation in the main draw. Chile advanced two teams in Tlaxcala Challenge silver medallists Noe Aravena and Vicente Droguett and two-time Olympians, the Grimalt cousins Marco and Esteban, while Argentina moved forward with the Capogrosso brothers Nicolas and Tomas.

BPT Challenge Itapema - FRAvsPOR 4

Gauthier-Rat hits during the Itapema qualifier

The other three main draw spots went to the Netherlands’ Leon Luini/Ruben Penninga, the Czech Republic’s Tomas Semerad/Jakub Sepka and France’s Arnaud Gauthier-Rat/Youssef Krou.

The Challenge events represent one of the three levels of the Beach Pro Tour. They are ranked between the Elite16, which feature the highest level of the sport, and the Futures, which offer young, up-and-coming players access to international beach volleyball, and feed into the elite of the sport.