Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss after winning the Espinho Elite16/Volleyball World photo

“Outrageous” is how Taryn Kloth described it, and that word could have been applied to any number of matters on Sunday morning at the Espinho Elite16.

The six match points she and Kristen Nuss fended off in the second set of the gold-medal match in Portugal to Nina Brunner and Tanja Huberli?

The sixth time in seven matches between those two teams that have gone the full three sets?

A third straight final made in the month of May alone?

The completion of an unlikely comeback in a 17-21, 28-26, 15-10 white-knuckler gold-medal win, in conditions that Kloth described as a “swirly tornado stadium wind storm”?

Outrageous, all of it.

“It’s always an outrageous battle against that Swiss team,” Kloth said. “The service pressure, defense and crazy hustle plays.”

Nina Brunner tries to knuckle the past Taryn Kloth/Volleyball World photo

When compared to the last time the two teams played, this one seems almost tame. That came in the ninth-place round of the Doha Elite16 earlier this year, a 21-23, 21-19, 23-25 Swiss win, a defensive clinic in which both teams sided out less than 50 percent.

Since, Huberli and Brunner have won their first Elite16 gold, in Tepic, and Nuss and Kloth have taken a silver in Brasilia and a second at AVP Huntington Beach, the field of which is deep enough on the women’s side to be comparable to an Elite. Both teams, in other words, arrived in Espinho in top form.

Nuss and Kloth picked off world No. 1 Ana Patricia and Duda for the first time of their careers in the quarterfinals, while Huberli and Brunner did the same to third-seeded Barbara and Carol in the first round of playoffs. It set the two, both of whom have arguments as the best defensive teams in the world, on a crash course for their seventh matchup.

Nuss and Kloth fended off eventual bronze medalists Katja Stam and Raisa Schoon of the Netherlands (22-20, 21-13) in the semifinals, while Huberli and Brunner took out Beach Pro Tour Finals silver medalists Cinja Tillmann and Svenja Muller in the quarters (21-19, 22-20) and Spanish Cinderellas Daniela Alvarez and Tania Moreno in the semifinals (21-12, 21-19).

That the two would play their longest match of the tournament in the finals was almost predictable. Of the seven matches they’ve played, five of them rank as the longest or second-longest match of the respective tournament in which they competed. What’s more, you can almost bet on another match between the pair in the Paris Olympics.

“Just absolutely unreal,” Nuss said afterwards.

Equally unreal is the fact that Alvarez and Moreno, 22-year-old TCU stars who took a red-shirt this year in their attempt to qualify for the Olympic Games, just did exactly that. Already in a good position prior to Espinho, their fourth-place finish out of the qualifier added 440 points to their total. Now ranked No. 15, they are a lock to compete in the Paris Olympics, becoming just the second Spanish women’s team to qualify for a Games, joining three-time Olympic veterans Lili Fernandez and Elsa Baquerizo.

The Beach Pro Tour continues next week at the Stare Jablonki Challenge in Poland, and Olympic qualifying finishes the week after with the Ostrava Elite16. Nuss and Kloth, however, will not be playing either, content to rest at home with three straight finals and $60,000 — $30K from Espinho — in prize money in the last three weeks.

“Now, a much-needed break,” Nuss said. “Can’t wait.”

Espinho Elite16 podium

David Ahman, Jonatan Hellvig win sixth gold in last eight tournaments

The men’s final was no such outrageous affair. When including the European Championships last August, Sweden’s David Ahman and Jonatan Hellvig have now made eight consecutive finals, and when adding Sunday’s 21-16, 21-13 whomp over Germans Nils Ehlers and Clemens Wickler, they’ve won six of them.

“It was an incredible game,” Ahman said. “It’s so tough to play in this wind but we managed it.”

Though they didn’t win, Ehlers and Wickler alas made their way back to the podium. The Germans began the year with three straight fourth-place finishes, in Doha, Tepic, and Brasilia. A 21-14, 19-21, 15-13 semifinal win over Steven van de Velde and Matthew Immers guaranteed them a medal, and the silver is their first since winning a silver at the Paris Elite16 last October. Bronze was won by George Wanderley and Andre Loyola, who secured their third consecutive medal with a 21-15, 30-28 win over van de Velde and Immers.

Kristen Nuss being Kristen Nuss/Volleyball World photo


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