Lausanne, Switzerland, October 6, 2015 - When one reviews the women’s competition on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour 2015, one thing was for sure, Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas were the most consistent team on the international circuit.
By never being seeded lower than fourth in an “Open” or “Grand Slam” event on the FIVB World Tour 2015, the Brazilian pair compiled impressive numbers to reach the top spot on the points standings to be crowned “champions” of the international circuit in only their third-season together.
Agatha and Barbara’s consistency in winning the FIVB World Tour crown was highlighted by the following in 2015:
• A three gold medal effort highlighted by winning the FIVB “senior” World Championships in The Hague July 4.
• A tour-high 61 wins for 73 matches played at 12 events without being defeated in back-to-back matches.
• A near-perfect record in pool play record with only three setbacks in 34 matches.
• A tour-high 10 quarter-final appearances.
• A tour-tying seven podium placements.
• An appearance is six gold medal matches - the second-most on the tour.
• A 19-match winning streak - the second-best streak on the tour in 2015.
Despite being ranked No. 2 on the FIVB World Tour in 2014 with one gold medal, four podium placements and nine quarter-final appearances, Agatha and Barbara were considered as the No. 3 Brazilian women’s team entering the 2015 season behind the compatriot pairings of Maria Antonelli/Juliana Felisberta and Talita Antunes/Larissa Franca.
Antonelli and Juliana were the top team on the points list for the 2014 FIVB World Tour with six medals and 10 quarter-final appearances. Talita and Larissa formed their partnership late in the 2014 season and ended the campaign by winning four-straight gold medals to earn the No. 2-seeding in the 2015 FIVB “senior” World Championships in The Netherlands.
With Antonelli/Juliana and Talita/Larissa starting their FIVB World Tour season at the Russian Grand Slam in Moscow at the end of May, Agatha and Barbara decided to start their international campaign a week earlier in the Czech Republic to help prepare for a stretch of events that were used to determine their fate for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
“We are here (in Prague) to get use to the time change from Brazil,” said the 28-year old Barbara in mid-May when asked why her team decided to play in the Czech Republic event.
“We are facing a very difficult schedule once Moscow begins next week with 10 key events over a 15-week period. So, we wanted to get our bodies use to the time change.”
By playing in Prague to prepare for a stretch of “key” events that would determine their fate for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Agatha and Barbara used the 500 points they earned for winning the Czech Republic Open to edge Talita and Larissa for this season’s FIVB World Tour crown.
But the real difference between the two Brazilian teams was over a four-week period from June 13 through July 4 where Agatha and Barbara collected 2,520 points by appearing in three-straight gold medal matches in Norway, the United States and The Netherlands while Talita and Larissa garnered only 860 points.
Due to a leg injury, Talita missed the Stavanger Major in Norway before she and Larissa placed ninth at both the St. Petersburg Grand Slam in the United States and the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships The Netherlands 2015. Agatha and Barbara compiled a 21-1 record during the stretch to gain control of the top spot on the FIVB World Tour.
When asked about winning the tour championships, both Agatha and Barbara point to the gold medal finishes in St. Petersburg and The Hague, and the second-place finish in Stavanger as a turning point in the season.
“The Prague gold created a positive start to our travels the next five months,” said Barbara, “and the silver medal finish in Norway really helped our confidence and set the stage for winning the gold medals in St. Petersburg and The Hague.”
But in the long run, the consistency in their play from week-to-week proved to be the deciding factor in becoming the 2015 FIVB World Tour Champions. That consistency was evident at the FIVB World Championships where the Brazilian pair only had one three-set match in eight starts.
In an interview in mid-August at the United States Grand Slam in Long Beach where the pair posted one of their two ninths in 2015, Barbara said "one thing that the world tour teaches you is that each week you have the opportunity to review what you have done to become better the next time you play.”
When reviewing Agatha and Barbara’s results, it hard to notice any differences in their play from match-to-match, tournament-to-tournament. But behind the scenes, their hard work and dedication to sport has paid off.
“We really conquered everything step by step,” Barbara said during the Long Beach interview. “We planned a lot and trained for these results. It’s not a surprise because we are positive about our potential and what we can achieve as a team. But when you get great results, it’s really special, you really see how far you can go. It’s not really a surprise for us because we are working so hard for it, not only physically but mentally. We hope to continue this journey and prove even more than we have already proven.”
What’s left to prove for Agatha and Barbara is reaching the podium on Copacabana beach at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Like the start of this season, Agatha and Barbara will not be Brazil’s No. 1 women’s team for next August’s Summer Games. That belongs to Talita and Larissa.
When asked about the pressure of playing in the Olympics, Barbara said there is “always pressure especially when you are home. We always try to take this in a positive way. We don’t let the pressure bother us because we are focused on what we need to do on the court, about each technique and each movement. I think this relieves the stress a little bit because we are doing what we love.”
Consistently “positive” are Agatha and Barbara. And doing what they “love” has consistently made the Brazilians the 2015 FIVB World Tour champions.
FIVB World Tour Champions (points leaders)
Season - Team, Country
1992* - Karolyn Kirby/Nancy Reno, United States
1993* - Kirby/Masakayan, United States
1994* - Monica Rodrigues/Adriana Samuel, Brazil
1995* - Sandra Pires/Jackie Silva, Brazil
1996 - Sandra/Jackie, Brazil
1997 - Shelda Bede/Adriana Behar, Brazil
1998 - Shelda/Adriana, Brazil
1999 - Shelda/Adriana, Brazill
2000 - Shelda/Adriana, Brazil
2001 - Shelda/Adriana, Brazil
2002 - Misty May/Kerri Walsh, United States
2003 - Ana Paula Connelly/Sandra, Brazil
2004 - Shelda/Adriana, Brazil
2005 - Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca, Brazil
2006 - Juliana/Larissa, Brazil
2007 - Juliana/Larissa, Brazil
2008 - Shelda/Ana Paula, Brazil
2009 - Juliana/Larissa, Brazil
2010 - Juliana/Larissa, Brazil
2011 - Juliana/Larissa, Brazil
2012 - Juliana/Larissa, Brazil
2013 - Talita Antunes/Taiana Lima, Brazil
2014 - Maria Antonelli/Juliana, Brazil
2015 - Talita/Larissa, Brazil
*season over-lapped into next calendar year