It's official: LSU's Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth to compete in Olympic beach volleyball (2024)

  • BY SCOTT RABALAIS | Sports columnist

    Scott Rabalais

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The first time Taryn Kloth watched beach volleyball being played, it was Kristen Nuss who commanded her attention.

An indoor volleyball player looking to transfer from Creighton in 2018, the South Dakota native admitted she didn’t even know which city LSU was in.

But that day out at Mango’s, the popular Baton Rouge beach volleyball venue off of Sherwood Forest Boulevard, Kloth knew talent when she saw it.

“I walked in that door and it was an intersquad scrimmage,” Kloth said Friday. “The coaches were showing us all the girls who were playing. They said, ‘OK, you can pick whatever court you want to watch.’

“I remember Kristen was right here,” Kloth said, pointing to a court near the clubhouse. “I said, ‘I want to watch her. She looks like she’s just a baller.’ ”

Wise choice.

The two swiftly formed an incredibly dynamic duo. Even though Kloth was a newcomer to beach volleyball, she and Nuss — who prepped at Mount Carmel Academy in New Orleans — went 36-0 together in 2021 on Court 1, earning national pair of the year honors for LSU. Nuss won 139 collegiate matches in all, an NCAA record.

Six short years from their first encounter back in 2018, Nuss and Kloth are riding about as high as you can possibly get in their sport. On Monday, they were officially named one of two teams who will compete for USA beach volleyball in the 2024 Paris Olympics.

The announcement was largely a formality as Nuss and Kloth — or TKN as they’re known, a combination of their overlapping initials — earned enough points back in March to make it.

Still, it was a thrilling achievement for both.

“It definitely is all a dream come true,” Nuss said Friday. “I didn’t even know when I started on this journey if it was actually a reality. I think over the past 2-3 years it was something in my head that I could see us being able to accomplish.

“Now, I think we can go bring a gold medal back home to the United States, back home to Louisiana. It’s not a far-fetched dream anymore. It’s a reality at this very moment, which is very crazy to me. But that’s the goal.”

Chemistry counts

Nuss and Kloth couldn’t be going into the Olympics in better form. Ranked No. 2 in the world (they’ve also secured the No. 2 seed in Paris), they’re coming off of a victory in their most recent tournament, the Espinho Elite 16 in Portugal.

En route to the title, Nuss and Kloth defeated the world No. 1 pair of Anna Patricia and Duda in the quarterfinals, their first-ever victory over the top-ranked Brazilians.

“Finally,” Nuss said. “It was I think our 10th time playing them.”

Nuss and Kloth have one more tournament before the Olympics, competing in early July in Gstaad, Switzerland. They’ll return to Louisiana one more time, then head to Paris on July 20.

They plan on taking part in the opening ceremony on the River Seine on July 26 and living in the Olympic Village. Pool play in the beach volleyball tournament starts the very next day. The knockout round of 16 starts Aug. 4, with the women’s gold and bronze medal matches set for Aug. 9, two days before the closing ceremony.

They will compete in perhaps the most exciting location at the Paris Games: a basketball arena-sized temporary outdoor facility (capacity 12,860) being called Eiffel Tower Stadium, with the iconic 19th century edifice as the backdrop.

“It really is the coolest venue,” Kloth said with a smile.

How did Nuss and Kloth get this good this fast? Their success can be summed up in one word: chemistry.

“When you watch people trying to make it in beach volleyball in the pros it’s a merry-go-round of partners,” said Dr. Jordan Nuss, Kristen’s older brother and a physician at Our Lady of the Lake Medical Center. “They’re trying to find a volleyball partner and trying to make a relationship comes secondary.

“For Kristen and Taryn, it was a very tight friendship that evolved into a volleyball partnership. My first time meeting (Taryn), this girl towering over me, I could tell they were super close as friends and were very comfortable and tight knit with each other.”

Kloth, 27, is 6-foot-4, a superb height for being able to pound the ball over the net. Nuss, 26, is 5-6, and according to LSU is the only women’s player 5-6 or shorter to compete on one of the world’s top 40 beach volleyball pairs. In fact, she will be the shortest U.S. beach volleyball player since 5-6 Barbara Fontana competed in Atlanta in 1996, the year the sport debuted in the Olympics.

Their trajectory has been remarkable.

“They balance each other a million percent,” said Tricia Schwartz, Kloth’s mother. “They’re just best friends. They’ve lived together, traveled the world together, and when they separate, they miss their best friend.”

Nuss started playing beach volleyball as a sophom*ore at Mount Carmel, but the sport didn’t exist for Kloth growing up in wintry South Dakota. Still, like Kloth saw the potential in Nuss, the same was true for Nuss about Kloth.

“I know Kristen was really excited about Taryn and saw the possibilities,” Schwartz said. “I don’t think Taryn could see what Kristen could see, because she knows the game so much more. But they’ve been good cheerleaders for each other and want the other to be successful.”

Team TKN

Both players will have a squadron of family and friends going to root for them in Paris.

Jordan Nuss, a part-time musician, has composed a hype song for them to listen to when heading out to the sand for their matches beneath the Eiffel Tower. And Schwartz had an Olympic necklace made for her daughter with a patron saint inside each of the five rings: Mary, Joseph, Anthony, Benedict … and Joan of Arc, the martyred French warrior. The last is perhaps fitting for a pair of young women setting off soon for France to try to capture the biggest prize in their sport.

Nuss, who got her start playing bounce ball at Lakeshore Playground in Metairie, wonders what her fifth-grade self would think about where her life and beach volleyball have taken her.

“She probably would have laughed and also been very scared, because I was a very shy girl,” Nuss said. “The thought of traveling all over the world probably would have been very scary.

“I’ve grown up the last couple of years and definitely branched out. That young self would be in awe of the person I am today.”

The world may be about to share that awe when Team TKN takes to the sand in Paris.

Lafayette swimmers at U.S. trials

Mary Landreneau and Jillian Barczyk of Lafayette have qualified for the U.S. Olympic swimming trials, set to begin Saturday in Indianapolis.

Landreneau, 18, qualified in the 200-meter freestyle with a time of 2 minutes, 0.29 seconds on June 1 at the Tristan Vessel Invitational in Baton Rouge. Barczyk, 23, a Georgia graduate, has qualified in the 200, 400 and 800 freestyle events.

The U.S. swimming trials will be held through June 23 at Lucas Oil Stadium.

LSU, Louisiana athletes qualified for Paris Olympics

Athletics

Mondo Duplantis (pole vault), Sweden

3x3 Basketball

Hailey Van Lith, USA

Beach volleyball

Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth, USA

Diving

Helle Tuxen, Norway

Gymnastics

Aleah Finnegan, The Philippines

Swimming

Maggie Mac Neil, Canada

Jere Hribar, Croatia

Jovan Lekic, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Upcoming U.S. Olympic trials

Swimming: June 15-23, Indianapolis

Diving: June 16-23, Knoxville, Tennessee

Track and field: June 21-30, Eugene, Oregon

Gymnastics: June 27-30, Minneapolis

For more LSU sports updates, sign up for our newsletter at theadvocate.com/lsunewsletter

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It's official: LSU's Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth to compete in Olympic beach volleyball (2024)
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