Espinho gold for Alison & Alvaro Filho; Plavins steals the hearts
Alison & Alvaro Filho rejoice
Espinho, Portugal, July 21, 2019 – Alison Cerutti & Alvaro Morais Filho emerged victorious from a spectacular all-Brazilian three-set final to triumph with the gold medals at the Espinho four-star stop on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour. This is the second World Tour medal for 33-year-old Alison and 28-year-old Alvaro Filho after the two teamed up three months ago. The first one was also gold, from the Kuala Lumpur three-star in May.
Andre Loyola Stein & George Souto Maior Wanderley had to settle for silver. For the team of 24-year-old Andre and 22-year-old George this is also the second medal on the Tour, after the bronze from this year’s Jinjiang four-star.
The big hero of the day, however, was 34-year-old Latvian Martins Plavins. Despite sustaining a foot injury in the bronze medal game, he not only persevered through the rest of the match, but also became the major contributor to the victory, which lifted him and his teammate Edgars Tocs of the 12th-seeded pair in the main draw to the podium. This is the third World Tour medal for the Latvian duo, after the Hague gold and the Kish Island silver in early 2018.
The men’s podium at Espinho
The first set of the final was an even battle through 8-8. After that 10th-seeded Alison & Alvaro Filho broke away with five in a row on Alison’s serve and never looked back to close the set off by an eight-point margin. With some spectacular moves on both sides of the net, seventh-seeded Andre & George opened up a slight lead in the second set and gradually extended it to six point as Andre hammered the overpass to close the set and prompt a tie-breaker. The deciding set was mostly about Alison’s sheer power, in both spiking and blocking, but he would often surprise the opponents with a gentle touch. One way or another, the 2016 Olympic champion and two-time Olympic medallist drove his team to the top – 2-1 (21-13, 15-21, 15-9).
“We are very happy with this gold medal, because we only started playing together three months ago. We had a win in a three-star tournament, and in a four-star, which is very good. We are evolving very fast and showing a lot of happiness on the field,” commented Alison after the victory in the final. “Playing here at Espinho is great because the Portuguese people are a lot like the Brazilian people and they live through these beach volleyball games with their hearts.”
“We had already achieved the bronze medal on the World Tour. Now we achieved silver. I believe we are on the way to win gold next,” Andre stated. “Portugal is a country that is so special to us. There are a lot of Brazilians here, we get a lot of support and we feel at home. The food is also very good and this is very important for the athletes.”
Edgars Tocs’s fantastic blocking made the big difference in the first set of the bronze medal match against 18th-seeded Chilean cousins Marco Grimalt & Esteban Grimalt. In the second set, Marco Grimalt started finding solutions to that problem and the battle was quite tight. At 11-10 Latvia’s way Martins Plavins suffered a foot injury. Despite the pain, he opted to continue the match after the medical time-out. Under the applause of the packed stadium, Plavins was amazing the most efficient player on the court through the end of the match. Almost dragging the injured foot over the sand, he made a number of smart moves that pooled his team forward. In a remarkable epilogue, the 2012 Olympic bronze medallist even spiked successfully for the last two points of his team and fixed the Latvian victory at 2-0 (21-13, 21-18).
Injured Plavins assisted off the court by his teammate Tocs after winning the bronze medal match
“Maybe I should have gotten the injury in the first match and now we would be playing in the final,” Plavins joked immediately after being assisted into the doctor’s office, and added: “After playing three games yesterday, we were really tired and very stressed before today’s semifinal, because it’s the first one for us this year. We wanted so much to get a medal that we couldn’t sleep all night. Maybe that’s we played very badly in the morning. Then we got more relaxed and it got better in the second game, but then I had the injury. We were leading and you never know when you will play next for the bronze, so I thought we had to fight till the end. The bronze for us is very good. We’re so happy because we worked hard for it.”
The Chileans battled on to sweep away an early Brazilian lead in the first set of the semifinal clash between the Grimalts and Andre & George and level the score at 9-9. This only prompted the Brazilian players to increase the pressure and regain control on the way to a 21-17 win. The cousins reacted well and opened a solid early lead in the second. Their downfall started when they disputed a referee call to receive a red card. Still, at 17-14, the Chileans looked close to levelling the game, but also much less concentrated than earlier in the set. Andre & George took advantage of it and finished the match at 2-0 (21-17, 21-17) on a spectacular seven-point streak.
In the first set of their semifinal match, Plavins & Tocs could not hold on to a solid six-point lead they managed to accumulate. With some high-flying attacks by Alvaro Filho, supported by Alison’s great blocking, the Brazilians not only caught up at 18-18, but also edged ahead to a 21-19 win. There was no stopping them in the second set. Riding the momentum, the South American duo established complete domination on the court and cruised to the final with Alvaro Filho’s off-the-net shot shaping off the 21-15 final score.