Claes & Sponcil defeat Greeks to make Espinho semis

 

Sarah Sponcil blocks a shot by Greece’s Panagiota Karagkouni

Espinho, Portugal, July 19, 2019 – USA’s Kelly Claes & Sarah Sponcil will meet Brazil’s Ana Patricia Silva Ramos & Rebecca Cavalcanti Barbosa Silva in one of Saturday’s women’s semifinals at the four-star Espinho stop on the 2019 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour. In the other, another Brazilian pair, Agatha Bednarczuk & Eduarda Santos Lisboa – Duda, will take on Russia’s Nadezda Makroguzova & Svetlana Kholomina.


Seventh-seeded Claes & Sponcil, each in their early 20s, had a great day on the courts at Espinho, going through three matches without losing a set. In the first elimination round, they achieved a speedy 2-0 (21-8, 21-14) win over Slovakia’s Andrea Strbova & Natalia Dubovcova and followed it up with another emphatic straight-setter – 2-0 (21-9, 21-18) against China’s Chen Xue & Xinxin Wang. In the quarterfinals, the Americans got to take revenge defeat Greece’s Vasiliki Arvaniti & Panagiota Karagkouni, to whom they had lost in three sets in the pool stage. Claes & Sponcil did so in two sets – 2-0 (21-15, 21-18) – to become the first team with a ticket to the semifinals.

“It’s super exciting!” exclaimed the elated Americans right after the end of their game with the Greeks. “It was nice to come out, get a second chance against this team and get our little redemption out here. We are used to training in the wind, but it doesn’t get this windy in California. Here we got a lot of different weather elements and it was fun to play in all these different conditions. It was foggy, it was sunny, it was windy, it was warm, it was cold... After three matches in one day everyone is kind of tired and it was nice to finish out with a win. We are excited to keep this momentum going. Now it’s time for recovering, eating good and getting a good night’s rest.”

Great save by Agatha in their quarterfinal match on centre court

Third-seeded Agatha & Duda started their day with a tight 2-1 (17-21, 21-11, 20-18) comeback against young Russian prodigies Mariia Bocharova & Maria Voronina. Having survived this tough encounter in the first round, they cruised to an emphatic 2-0 (21-12, 21-13) shutout of sixth-seeded Barbara Seixas De Freitas & Fernanda Alves in an all-Brazilian clash for a spot in the quarterfinals. In their third match of the day, Agatha & Duda faced another big obstacle, fourth-seeded Americans Brooke Sweat & Kerri Walsh Jennings, but came out of it with a straight-set 2-0 (21-16, 21-18) victory.

The tournament’s top seeds Ana Patricia & Rebecca started their playoffs directly from the round of 16, where they achieved a hard-fought 2-0 (21-19, 22-20) victory over Xinyi Xia & Fan Wang. It was the second nail-biting match of the day for the Chinese pair as they had squeezed out a 2-1 (21-17, 26-28, 15-13) victory over Finland’s Riikka Lehtonen & Niina Ahtiainen. It was so dramatic that one of the volunteer girls, from a Chinese origin, could not hold back her tears and had to be consoled by her favourites Xia & Wang. For the Brazilian players the drama also continued. In their quarterfinal match against USA’s Kelley Larsen & Emily Stockman, they had to go to third after splitting the first two sets, each going deep into overtime. Ana Patricia & Rebecca claimed the tie-breaker, 2-1 (25-23, 25-27, 15-10), and a spot in the semis.

Xinyi Xia & Fan Wang console their young fan after a dramatic match

Makroguzova & Kholomina, seeded fifth in the main draw, also had an encounter with compatriots on the way to the semifinals. In the round of 16, they hammered out a 2-0 (21-19, 21-14) win over fellow Russians Ekaterina Birlova & Evgenia Ukolova. In the quarterfinals, Makroguzova & Kholomina managed to come back from a set down against Spain’s Liliana Fernandez Steiner & Elsa Baquerizo McMillan to win by 2-1 (19-21, 21-18, 15-9).


Saturday’s semifinals are set to start at 12:15 and 13:15 local time. The bronze medal match is scheduled at 16:30 and the gold medal final will begin at 17:45. All four games will be streamed live on the FIVB YouTube channel.