By Griffin O’Hara
SOFIA, Bulgaria – The U.S. Beach Volleyball Team again saw mixed results on its third day of play Monday at the National Sports Academy.
During the first American match of the day, No. 1 duo Michael Bruning and Eric Vincent bounced back from their loss the previous day, defeating Uzbekistan’s Valeriy Litvinko and Evgeniy Semikin in two sets, 21-9, 21-8.
“We played well,” Vincent said. “We were working on some things. Try[ing] to figure some out.”
However, Vincent felt slightly optimistic about the pair’s progress.
“Maybe not to the point where we want to be,” he said. “That’ll definitely come soon.”
No. 1 team Shana Lehmann and Michelle Skowzgird lost to the experienced Russian pair of Yuliya Stukan and Natalia Ivanova. The Russians used skilled ball-handling to take down the Americans in the first set, 21-10.
In the next set, Lehmann and Skowzgird put up a fight and led at one point but lost, 21-19, despite a run near the end that nearly put them ahead of Russia.
Despite playing with power and technical skill, Lehmann and Skowzgird struggled, being new to the game.
“We made mistakes that we can’t afford to make,” Lehmann said. “We need to play clean, we didn’t play clean today.”
Women’s coach Dyan Kovacs said a slow start hampered the women.
“We had a slow start this morning. We finished strong, but too late,” Kovacs said.
Going into their match against Poland’s Jacek Kalinowski and Artur Langos, Dmitri Nikiforov said he and partner Steven Menegus were shooting for consistency and focus.
We’ll “try and play consistent,” he said. “Keep the ball in play. Focus more on the game play, ball control, and defense.”
Nikiforov and Menegus lost to Poland in straight sets, though, 19-21, 18-21.
“I feel like we got better with each game,” Menegus said. “Second game was a lot better than the first. I felt like I could have played a little better. Hit too many balls out, or into the net.”
Menegus said the pair already were looking forward to tomorrow.
We’ll “come out, ready to go. Aggressive,” he said.
In the last U.S. match of the day, No. 2 team Charity Sanders and Nancy Moore defeated Gliece Nascimento and Vanessa Vidal of Brazil, 21-10, 21-13.
On Tuesday, Nikiforov and Menegus face Brazil at 9 a.m. (2 a.m. ET), and Sanders and Moore play Russia – a formidable pair that took fourth at the world beach volleyball championships last year, according to Kovacs – at 7 p.m. (noon ET).