USA upset Polish U21 world champions
Hughes has some experience, competing in youth and junior world championships before and finishing fourth last year at the U21 with Summer Ross, but 17-year old Claes made her international debut in Porto.
The tall blocker stood her own though, when the Polish girls, who came nowhere near their usual level, managed to come back from 20-16 to 20-19 at the end of the second set. Claes finished the game with one of her big spikes.
“We knew they were the U21 champions coming into the tournament”, Hughes said. “And when we played them we knew we just had to fight hard and give it our all.”
The key to winning was “being big, swinging hard, playing our own game”, Claes said.
The girls felt that playing in the first elimination round, unlike the Polish who got a bye as pool winners, helped them a bit. “It was on court 4 and we really felt in our element because it was windy and that’s what we are used to. It gave us a little bit more advantage”, Hughes said.
They are up for another tough match in the quarterfinals, when they meet Nina Betschart, who won the U21 in 2011 and 2012, and her partner Nicole Eiholzer from Switzerland.
Hughes and Claes lost to the Swiss girls in the pool on Friday. “But, we will go for the gold now”, said Hughes.
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