Kelly Cheng, Sara Hughes thrive in Paris Elite16 with new-look offense


Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth are claiming to have fairly a little bit of enjoyable in France on the Paris Elite16 — and, with a 3-0 begin, a bye into Saturday’s quarterfinals, and all the sizzling chocolate Nuss can drink to rejoice, why shouldn’t they be? — however to look at Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes is to see the bodily manifestation of enjoyable on the court docket.

After a scintillating revival to their partnership final November, one which started with 4 consecutive wins, together with the $150,000 payday on the World Tour Finals, Hughes and Cheng final stood atop a podium in March following one other victory on the Tepic Elite16. For many, or anybody not named Ana Patricia Silva and Duda Lisboa, this can be a removed from worrisome timeframe: Just a few months with no gold medal is par for the Elite16 course. Solely the aforementioned Brazilians have received a number of Elite gold medals this season.

New wrinkles, then, have been added to the Hughes-Cheng arsenal, one which was already replete with quite a lot of them. Chief amongst these wrinkles? The jump-set, a ability at present in vogue on the lads’s facet however one utilized by solely a single staff on the ladies’s finish: Cheng and Hughes.

Debuted on the AVP Chicago Gold Sequence on Labor Day weekend, Cheng’s occasional jump-sets earned Hughes the occasional open web. Like several new ability, generally it labored, generally it didn’t. Generally it even labored when Cheng thought it didn’t, when she hilariously gaffed a set that she thought would get known as, grew visibly upset with herself — after which it wound up going for a degree.

There have been no such gaffes in Paris. Cheng routinely broke out the jump-set throughout their 3-0 run via pool play, and Hughes’ hitting share on these units is sort of 100%. Already a top-tier offensive participant, Hughes is now getting open-net swings on a semi-regular foundation. When the blocker didn’t absolutely chunk on the jump-set, she was typically late,  having honored the specter of Cheng’s on-two assault, which then turned a neater assault for Hughes on the third contact.

The end result?

Two sweeping wins, over Germany’s Cinja Tillman and Svenja Muller (21-18, 21-19) and France’s Lezana Placette and Alexia Richard (21-19, 21-19) to assert the highest spot in Pool D and earn a bye into the weekend’s quarterfinals (Their third match, scheduled in opposition to Germans Laura Ludwig and Louisa Lippmann, was received by way of forfeit; Ludwig and Lippmann recovered sufficient to beat France and break pool).

“We’re on a mission this event to ascertain what we now have been engaged on in observe for the final three weeks,” Hughes stated. “Generally it’s working nice, different occasions not a lot, however we’re sticking with it and having religion in our system. Actually pleased with how we’re taking part in as a staff and love our struggle.”

Sara Hughes-Kelly Cheng-Paris Elite16
Sara Hughes hits on the Paris Elite16/Volleyball World photograph

A pool-play chalk stroll on the Paris Elite16

Pool play went fittingly sufficient throughout the board in Paris: The highest 4 ranked groups within the Olympic standings — Barbara Seixas and Carol Salgado, Ana Patricia and Duda, Nuss and Kloth, Cheng and Hughes — all completed pool play undefeated. Solely Ana Patricia and Duda dropped a set, to Betsi Flint and Julia Scoles.

Flint and Scoles, regardless of shedding two pool play matches, are shifting on to Saturday’s playoffs as effectively with a victory over Finland’s Taru Lahti and Niina Ahtiainen on Thursday. Their match in opposition to Switzerland’s Nina Brunner and Tanja Huberli on Friday morning was principally a lame duck, a battle for second and third in pool, the place each groups would have begun within the ninth-place rounds of playoffs irrespective of how the match went, given the undefeated run by Brazil.

The one American staff eradicated from pool play was the brand new duo of Terese Cannon and Megan Kraft, who performed three admirable predominant draw matches after qualifying on Wednesday however misplaced all three. Twice, they went the total three units, to Australia’s Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho and Italy’s Valentina Gottardi and Marta Menegatti, and so they almost did so once more, shedding 18-21, 20-22 to Nuss and Kloth on Friday morning.

Andy Benesh and Miles Partain almost went that route as effectively. After shedding each matches on Thursday, Benesh and Partain required a victory over Australians Zac Schubert and Thomas Hodges. Victory was had — barely. A 21-19, 22-24, 15-11 win pushed Benesh and Partain into the weekend’s playoffs.

Scoles and Flint are the primary People in motion on Saturday, in opposition to Gottardi and Menegatti. It’s the first assembly between the 2 groups, and it received’t be the final, as they’re in the identical pool for subsequent week’s World Championships. Ought to they win, they may meet Barbara and Carol within the quarterfinals.

Hughes and Cheng are subsequent, awaiting the winner of Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho and Katja Stam and Raisa Schoon, the gold medalists of final 12 months’s Paris Elite16. Nuss and Kloth will play the winner of Huberli and Brunner and Ludwig and Lippmann.

Partain and Benesh discover themselves in a loaded portion of the bracket. They’ll play Italy’s Paolo Nicolai and Sam Cottafava within the first spherical; the winner will feed into the Czech Republic’s Ondrej Perusic and David Schweiner, who completed pool play undefeated.

Miles Partain-Andy Benesh-Thomas Hodges
Miles Partain hits in opposition to Thomas Hodges on the Paris Elite16/Volleyball World photograph

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