The first Beach Pro Tour Future level tournament is underway in Coolangatta, Austraila and a team with zero entry points is among the favorites to top the podium. Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth have found enormous success at every level of beach volleyball, and make their international debut this week in Australia.
Not many planning for the future
We’ll get to Nuss and Kloth in a minute, but the reason they are able to play at all is because so few teams decided to play in Australia. The women’s tournament only filled 11 out of the 16 available places in yesterday’s qualification round.
The prize money may not be great at the future level, but the points available are nothing to sneeze at. Teams that made it out of the very difficult qualifiers at the Tlexcala Challenge tournament and advanced from their pool earned the same points that a silver medalist will win in Coolangatta. That means a team starting in the qualifiers and winning three matches at the Challenge level gains the same amount of points as a team that starts a Futures tournament in the main draw and wins four matches.
Looking at the math that way, it seems like teams looking for points would be clamoring to get into this tournament, but that wasn’t the case. When the real value of points in the Beach Pro Tour is realized by all of the teams on the tour, I don’t think we’ll see any more empty spots in the qualifier bracket. For now a lot of young Australian teams and these Americans who stuck together are the big beneficiaries.
Big chance for Australia
In the women’s tournament, 12 out of the 23 teams playing are from Australia. Seven were eliminated from the qualifiers yesterday, but they all picked up at least 60 ranking points which is triple the amount they could earn by winning on the Australian tour against Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar. Not a bad points haul just for showing up.
The men’s tournament is completely full with 28 teams in total, but even so, 11 are from Australia. If any federations want to give their teams a chance to earn some important ranking points, they should really be hosting these Future tournaments. Australian fans will be disappointed that their best team, Christopher McHugh & Paul Burnett withdrew from this one, but there are still plenty of Volleyroos to cheer for.
Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth stick together
Last year when I wrote my Unsolicited Advice to the FIVB post, one of my complaints was the way young teams have to split up just to get enough points to enter tournaments. The Beach Pro Tour does address some of my concerns, but the problem of young teams splitting up still persists.
Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth were college team mates at Louisiana State University that went undefeated in the NCAA in 2021. We’ve seen how much talent there is in the NCAA, so that record alone is mind blowing. Nuss finished her collegiate career with 139 wins, the most of any player in history. Kloth transferred to LSU after playing indoor volleyball at another school, so she didn’t amass nearly as many victories.
If that NCAA success doesn’t get your attention, their success on the American professional tour, the AVP, will. They won three AVP Next tournaments in 2020 and last summer they played in their first AVP tournament together. Coming out of the qualifiers they went on to win their debut in Atlanta including a victory in the finals over American Olympians Kelly Claes & Sarah Sponcil. They also beat Sara Hughes & Brandie Wilkerson earlier that weekend. Kristen & Taryn went on to finish fifth and third in their other two AVP events, beating Claes & Sponcil again and only ever losing to Olympic gold medalists Alix Klineman & April Ross. They did lose one match against Claes & Sponcil at the Manhattan Beach Open that featured a marathon 37-39 set.
Doing it their way
Nuss and Kloth got a lot of advice from veterans American players, fans on message boards and Podcasters about how to break into the international level. All of that advice had one thing in common: Break Up. Even if just for half a season, they had to break up and join forces with someone who had enough points to get them through the door. When I heard this advice repeated again and again, it made me cringe. I was thrilled to learn they rejected all of that advice and several offers from players who were willing to team up. They decided to stick together even if it meant delaying their chance to play internationally.
Throughout the winter, it seemed like their decision was foolish. With zero points and very few Future tournaments available, it seemed they would never get in. Then, when the official list for Coolangatta came out, there were only 32 teams on the list. As teams dropped out for various reasons, Nuss and Kloth suddenly had the chance to play on the Beach Pro Tour and they would do it together.
They are on the reserve list for the next Future tournament in Thailand a few weeks from now. If enough teams drop out there and they find success in their first two Future tournaments, they could have a chance to make Challenge tournament qualifiers sooner than expected. At the very least they are going to leave Australia with some points to get into Future tournaments (and many more have been added to the calendar) throughout this summer and build from there.
Off to a good start
In yesterday’s qualifiers, Nuss and Kloth showed they were on another level against a couple of Australian teams. In the first round they won 21-14, 21-13 and in the second it was 21-9, 21-7. Today they start pool play against number one seeds Phoebe Bell & Nicole Laird in a match that will reveal just how good they are at the Future level of the Beach Pro Tour.
Teams to watch
It is hard to ignore Nuss and Kloth as the favorites with their success against America’s best, but Australia, New Zealand and Japan would all love to slow down their ascent. The top seed in Coolangatta is Australia’s Nicole Laird & Phoebe Bell. They were unable to make it out of the Tlaxcala qualifiers, but they did pick up an Australian tour victory last weekend. Kiwis Alice Zeimann & Shaunna Marie Polley have won every tournament on the New Zealand tour this year and took fourth at the Asian Senior championships. They are the second seed, with Takemi Nishibori & Asami Shiba the third seed this week. The Japanese women were eliminated by Bell and Laird in the first round of qualifiers in Tlaxcala and would love to get some payback this week.
In the men’s tournament Austrians Felix Friedl & Maximilian Trummer are the top sees and Pawel Lewandowski & Jakub Zdybek of Poland are second. The popular Bello brothers from England are the third seed and the other brothers in the tournament, New Zealand’s athletic O’Dea siblings split up and took new partners for this one. They are seeded sixth and seventh respectively.
All of the teams playing this week have a great opportunity to earn valuable ranking points that will make or break their summers and either solidify their partnerships on the world stage or possibly send them back home looking for someone else to play with next time.
Where to watch
It looks like the Future level tournaments are going to be back on Beach Volleyball World’s YouTube channel. So, if you didn’t sign up for VolleyballWorldTV’s free trial, you can still catch the action in Australia.
Beach Pick’em picks
One fun benefit of running the Beach Pick’em game is the ability to see who you guys picked as soon as the tournament begins. Here are your favorites to win.
You can sign up to play Beach Pick’em for the rest of the Beach Pro Tour in 2022 here.