Four Spanish ladies cruise unquestioned through U21 main draw

Women’s teams from Brazil, Hungary, Latvia, Russia, Switzerland and Ukraine also win their pools in Phuket

Both Spanish women’s pairs showed their superiority at the start of the 2021 FIVB Beach Volleyball U21 World Championship main draw and finished the pool stage with the two best records among all 31 participants in Thailand. They topped their pools at Bangtao Beach in Phuket to advance straight to the last 16 together with teams from Brazil, Hungary, Latvia, Russia, Switzerland and Ukraine. The remaining eighth-finalists will be determined in Friday’s first elimination round, where the eight pool runners-up will go against the eight third-placed duos in direct knockout duels.

Tania Moreno Matveeva and Ana Vergara, seeded 24th, cruised to the first place in Pool H. The Spanish duo yielded only 77 points to all three of their opponents. Although their very last set of the pool stage was pushed to overtime, they were still able to maintain an impeccable record of three wins and 6-0 sets after a 2-0 (21-17, 22-20) victory over Germany’s Hanna-Marie Schieder and Paula Schurholz.

Their fourth-seeded compatriots Daniela Alvarez Mendoza and Sofia Gonzalez Racero were even more emphatic in Pool D, where they topped the standings with a convincing 126-73 total point record. In Thursday’s decider for the first place, they delivered a 2-0 (21-9, 21-11) blowout of Mexico’s Maria Jimena Ramirez Campas and Abril Cristina Flores Castro.

Russia’s Bocharova in action

Third-seeded Russians Mariia Bocharova and Elizaveta Gubina were also merciless in their Pool C, allowing the opponents only 79 points in total in the six sets they played.

Eszter Vasvari and Zsofi Vasvari dominated Pool A and booked a spot in the second elimination round, also without dropping a set along the way. The Hungarian sisters’ second-leg match proved key to the first place in the pool. In that game on Wednesday, they upset top-seeded Thai duo Apinya Saengpaeng and Jidapa Bunongkhun by 2-0 (21-19, 21-13), leaving the home favourites in the pool runners-up position.

In Pool B, the only one with three teams, Latvia’s Varvara Brailko and Anete Namike started off with a 2-0 (21-14, 21-12) shutout of Paraguay’s Maggie Paiva Goiburu and Romina Ediger and then produced a 2-0 (21-15, 22-20) upset of second-seeded Brazilians Thainara Mylena Feitosa de Oliveira and Anne Karolayne Figueredo Gois to top the standings.

Ukraine’s Khmil blocks a shot from Czechia’s Neuschaeferova

Ukraine’s Anhelina Khmil and Tetiana Lazarenko played three very tough matches in Pool E, but won them all to top the standings. Their first two games were decided in tie-breakers, 2-1 (21-13, 22-24, 15-12) against Czechia’s Michaela Brinkova and Kylie Neuschaeferova and 2-1 (21-12, 14-21, 16-14) against fifth-seeded Svenja Muller and Anna-Lena Grune of Germany. In the third leg, the Ukrainians emerged on top of an epic nail-biting first set against Australia’s Jasmine Fleming and Kayla Mears before celebrating with a 2-0 (37-35, 21-17) victory. Each of the other three teams in the pool finished on a 1-2 win-loss record, with the Germans eliminated on point ratio.

27th-seeded Russians Arina Riazhnova and Elizaveta Ludkova were well on their way to a perfect ending of their Pool F campaign and becoming the lowest ranked team to win a direct ticket to the last 16, when an injury prevented them from completing that goal. They had won all five of their sets and leading 8-4 in the sixth (against Thailand’s Salinda Mungkhon and Samitta Simarongnam), when Riazhnova suffered heat exhaustion and Russia had to forfeit the match. The situation left the team in second place, allowing sixth-seeded Menia Bentele and Leona Kernen of Switzerland to win the pool on a 2-1 win-loss record and better point ratio.

The only three-setter in Pool G occurred in the first leg of action and proved to have served as the decider for the first place in the final standings. In that match, Brazil’s Maria Fernanda Ferreira Dias and Carolina Sallaberry Cavalcanti managed a 2-1 (21-18, 16-21, 15-13) victory over Italy’s Valentina Gottardi and Margherita Tega to start their quest to the top of the table.

Thailand’s Wachirawit in defence

The last leg of the pool stage in the men’s competition is scheduled on Friday. After the first two legs in the eight pools, only nine pairs still remain unbeaten: Spain’s Gabriel Gutierrez Mendez and Alvaro Viera Iglesias in Pool A, Brazil’s Mateus De Paula Dultra and Gabriel Zuliani and Latvia’s Olivers Bulgacs and Davis Teteris in Pool B, Czechia’s Tadeas Trousil and Matyas Dzavoronok in Pool C, Sweden’s David Ahman and Jonatan Hellvig in Pool D, Germany’s Philipp Huster and Lui Wust in Pool E, Ukraine’s Oleksandr Boiko and Oleksii Bublyk in Pool F, USA’s Matthew Gentry and Phillip Catanzaro in Pool G, and Thailand’s Netitorn Muneekul and Wachirawit Muadpha in Pool H.

Saturday’s women’s semifinals, as well as the men’s semifinals and both genders’ medal matches on Sunday, will be streamed live on the Beach Volleyball World video channel on YouTube.

Main photo: Spain’s Moreno in reception

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FIVB Beach Volleyball U21 World Championships - Phuket 2021
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