Vienna, Austria, Aug. 1, 2019 - Given the chance to throw some hype into an All-American clash on Friday, Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman responded in the exact manner anyone might have expected.
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Not exactly in the manner we would have hoped for, but you’re not going to get much more out of Larsen and Stockman in any case.
But with a chance to reach the quarterfinals of the $600,000 FIVB A1 Major Vienna presented by Swatch with a matchup against Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil, you’d think there might just be a little extra fuel to throw on the fire.
“No, we’re here to win and that’s what our mindset is going into this regardless of who’s on the other side of the net,” the 27-year-old Larsen said. “We’re stoked to play and whether it’s American team, an international team, we’re ready.”
This shocks no one. While just about every other team on the FIVB World Tour might celebrate every point like it’s a game-winner, Larsen and Stockman just go about their business.
Heck, they barely even high-five each other after putting away a point after a big scramble.
Actually, Larsen and Stockman’s low-key demeanor might just be the secret to their success.
“I think that’s a part of what makes our team so good is that we’re not super emotional,” Stockman, 31, said. “When people are watching, maybe they don’t know if we’re winning or losing because we are pretty even-keeled and I think that has helped us.
“I personally don’t like to waste energy on that kind of stuff,” she added, at least with a small laugh. “We definitely get excited. But neither of us are a very loud, cheery-type person I guess.”
Steadily, and quietly of course, Larsen and Stockman have become one of a closely bunched group of United States teams in the thick of the race to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. They showed they are a major factor in the race by their silver-medal finish in the FIVB Warsaw Open in June, in which they defeated five teams that are also in the round of 16 in Vienna.
Kelley Larsen (left) and Emily Stockman with their silver medals in Warsaw
That finished helped propel them into the No. 16 ranking in the world, just one spot (and a handful of points) behind Claes and Sponcil. That in itself would seem to be added motivation for their Thursday clash.
“Right now, our focus is one match at a time, one game at a time,” Stockman said. “That stuff is always going to be there but you can’t let that affect what our journey is or how we’re going to come out and play.”
The winner of the 9:30 a.m. elimination match advances to the quarterfinals later in the day. The teams have met only once, with Larsen and Stockman scoring a 2-1 (18-21, 21-17, 17-15) victory in the semifinals of the AVP Seattle Open in June.
Larsen and Stockman went on to capture the tournament title, their first together on the American domestic tour.
And don’t let their outward calm fool you. Even they can get a little antsy, if only inwardly.
“I usually get a little nervous before almost every game,” Larsen admitted. “But I think that’s good, it means I’m excited and ready to play. But once we start playing, we’re a pretty even-keeled team.”