USC Beach Volleyball Alum Kelly Claes Collects Second FIVB Gold
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Three-time USC beach volleyball AVCA All-American Kelly Claes (Fullerton, Calif./El Dorado HS)—who has already qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games—further cemented her spot when she and partner Sarah Sponcil claimed gold medals at the J&T Banka Ostrava Beach Open in Ostrava, Czech Republic, on Sunday, June 6.
Just one week earlier (May 30), Claes and Sponcil captured their first international gold medals as winners of the FIVB Beach World Tour (Fédération Internationale de Volleyball) four-star event in Sochi, Russia. This win in Ostrava is now Claes' 19th top-five international finish including three previous runner-up results.
The J&T Banka Ostrava Beach Open was the final international event at which results generate points in the Provisional Olympic Ranking.
Claes and Sponcil went 6-0 in Ostrava and dropped just two sets. The duo defeated the Swiss pair of Joana Heidrich and Anouk Vergé-Dépré in straight sets, 21-18, 21-15, in the championship match. Since partnering in 2019, Claes and Sponcil have earned 11 medals in 30 FIVB tournaments, including gold medals in Sochi and Ostrava, four silver, and five bronze medals. In 2021, the duo has played all six four-star tournaments and has finished tied for fifth or better five times.
USC will also be represented at the Olympics by three-time indoor volleyball AVCA All-American April Ross. She and partner Alix Klinemanmathematically qualified and clinched their Olympic berth earlier this year. Ross will compete in her third Olympic Games after taking silver in London 2012 with USC alumna Jennifer Kessy and bronze with Walsh Jennings at the 2016 Brazil Games.
Additionally, current Trojan All-American Tina Graudina (Jurmala, Latvia) is the first-ever collegiate beach volleyball athlete to qualify for the Olympics. She and partner Anastasija Kravcenoka won the Olympic Qualification Tournament in Haiyang, China, in September 2019, and are the first Latvian women's beach volleyball Olympic pair in the country's history.
The USC beach volleyball team captured the program's fourth national championship (third NCAA crown) with a win over crosstown rival UCLA in the NCAA Championship dual. Under second-year head coach Dain Blanton, USC went 30-4 and had winning streaks of 13 and 12 matches during the season. The Trojans finished as the Pac-12 runner-up and produced the league's Pair of the Year in Tina Graudina and Megan Kraft. Graudina was also named Pac-12 Player of the Year and Kraft was the conference's Freshman of the Year. Both were named first-team AVCA All-Americans and were joined on the first team by Julia Scoles and Sammy Slater.
For more information on the USC beach volleyball team, a complete schedule, and results, please visit USCTrojans.com/beach. Fans of the Women of Troy can follow the team on Instagram and on Twitter @USCBeach.