Young Lithuanians starting to make an impact


Lithuania's Lukas Kazdailis (left) and Arnas Rumsevicius celebrate a point on the FIVB World Tour as the 22-year olds split a pair of matches Tuesday at the Fort Lauderdale Major

Fort Lauderdale, USA, February 27, 2018 - Right next door sits a country that is crazy about beach volleyball, but at least the sport has caught the eye of a couple of young players from Lithuania.

Maybe Arnas Rumsevicius and Lukas Kazdailis are onto something that Latvia has discovered. They’re both 22, they both started playing the sport indoors, and now they’re outdoors.

And they’re making an impact. Last weekend at the FIVB Kish Island Open in Iran, the duo won their first five matches before bowing out with a fifth-place finish. In two of those victories, they outlasted their opponents in three-set matches, and even advanced with a victory over Latvia’s Haralds Regza and Kristaps Smits.

Does that mean they can beat their neighbors at their own game? Well, let’s just say the conditions in the two countries contrast.

“Yeah, we’re trying, but we’re trying different styles of volleyball," Rumsevicius said with a smile. “We were playing indoor, then beach volleyball, now we’re going to snow volleyball.”

They won’t be seeing any snow for at least a week after fulfilling their tour of duty in the 2018 Fort Lauderdale Major on Tuesday. They started the day’s qualifying with a 2-0 (21-15, 21-18) victory over Slovenia’s Danijel Pokersnik and Nejc Zemljak, then ran into Brazilians Pedro Solberg and George Wanderley and dropped a tough 2-0 (21-19, 22-20) decision.

As tough as they fought, the Lithuanians still have plenty to adjust in their game. The wind kicked up and the Brazilians dealt with it better on the key points.

“Every team we play is a tough team and that’s the second time we played the Brazilian team,” Kazdailis said. “It’s nice to play against those teams.”

Added Rumsevicius: “It’s the beginning of the season and we were losing ball control and there were difficult situations. With the wind it’s not easy to play against their service.”

They’ll stay in South Florida to train for the rest of the week, but then comes the tough part. In a country that has built a legendary reputation in basketball, Rumsevicius and Kazdailis both know the future is tough.

In fact, they really don’t know which tournament they can afford to play in until the European Championships.

“We try to go everywhere but it’s a tight situation with money so maybe we will go home and practice,” Rumsevicius said, laughing. “Because we are a basketball country, the money goes there. For us it’s like we get the coins and not the dollars. But you never know in beach volleyball. It’s pretty hard to know what will happen.”