The Huntington Beach Open podiums featured beach volleyball teams from Brazil, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain.
Huntington Beach, USA, May 6, 2018 - It was a given that a Brazilian women’s team would win the gold medal at the 2018 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Huntington Beach Open presented by AVP.
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Nothing was guaranteed for the eventual winner on the men’s side. But when Robert Meeuwsen and Alex Brouwer of the Netherlands struck gold, it was a historic moment on United States sand.
In the day’s first championship match, Barbara Seixas and Fernanda Alves kept their winning streak alive by defeating friends and countrywomen Carolina Salgado and Maria Antonelli, 2-1 (16-21, 21-15, 15-9) to add to the title they earned in March in the Fort Lauderdale Major.
Barbara and Fernanda, beginning only their second season together, have won 12 consecutive matches.
“It’s just the beginning, man!” said Barbara, the Rio 2016 silver medallist with Agatha Bednarczuk. “We are really satisfied of course and we have been working hard for it. We are proud of our work and our team because they are pushing us to become better. Once you make your game better and right, it doesn’t matter who your opponent is.”
Barbara and Fernanda celebrate their victory at Huntington Beach
It mattered in the first set, when Carol set the tone with five blocks. But the other Brazilians regrouped and once they took a 3-2 lead in the second, they never relinquished it.
“It was an attitude adjustment,” Barbara said. “We already knew it was going to be a tough game. It was just a matter of aggressiveness to keep our energy at 100 per cent. The mistakes will happen and the blocks will happen, but it’s important to keep your mind straight with an aggressive attitude. Fernanda did this perfectly in the second set and the tiebreak. It was crazy to watch.”
Fernanda turned the tables in the tiebreaker, pounding balls to the sand and coming up with several blocks of her own. On one scramble play, Fernanda sent four balls back with her block.
“I wanted to eat the ball! Each point is very important,” Fernanda said. “If you miss one, it hurts. I was hungry for the ball to make the point. I started a little slow because I missed one or two balls and in the first set the energy was a little low.”
It was the seventh career FIVB World Tour title for Barbara, the 2015 world champion, and fourth for Fernanda.
For the veteran Maria Antonelli, she was denied her 13th career victory but left the beach in a good mood.
“This is my first time winning a medal here in the United States. I’ve played here 10 years and Huntington Beach is so special,” she said. “The people here support us all the time after the game, during the game.”
Meeuwsen and Brouwer, the 2013 world champions and Rio 2016 bronze medallists, became the first European team in nearly 22 years to win an FIVB event in the United States.
The Dutch players congratulate each other after winning the Huntington Beach Open
They used their power game to knock off 2017 world champions Evandro Goncalves and Andre Loyola, 2-0 (21-16, 21-15), coming up with four aces and knocking the Brazilians off-balance for most of the match. Normally, it’s Evandro serving teams off the court.
“It was crazy,” Meeuwsen said. “We know (Evandro) has a great serve and he made some errors today but also the ones he did serve well we received them pretty good. That’s making a big difference, he’s not getting any rhythm at all and we kept serving them so hard and the pressure’s all on them the whole game and I think that made the biggest difference.”
It was their sixth career victory together and matched the feat last achieved by Norway’s Jan Kvalheim and Bjorn Maaseide in the 1996 U.S. Open in Hermosa Beach, California.
The Dutch duo lost their second match of the rare double-elimination tournament, then rolled off seven consecutive victories. Twice, they avoided elimination by winning three matches in a day.
“Man, my legs, you don’t want to be in my place right now,” Brouwer said. “I think I’m going to need help stepping up on the podium. Yeah, nine matches it’s not easy, but luckily we had wings in this final.”
The winners shared the $20,000 first prize.