Huberli & Betschart top toughest pool in Sochi

Wojtasik & Kociolek take the upper hand in an amazing 36-34 tie-breaker

The first eight eighthfinalists of the Sochi 4-star stop on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour became known as the women’s pool winners emerged with the start of the main draw action on Thursday. But what was certainly the most spectacular game of the day was the third place match in Pool A, where Poland’s Kinga Wojtasik and Katarzyna Kociolek claimed a nail-biting three-set comeback victory over Lithuania’s Ieva Dumbauskaite and Gerda Grudzinskaite after pushing the tie-breaker to a fantastic 36-34 finish.

Tanja Huberli and Nina Betschart came out on the happy end of a very interesting Pool B race. The Swiss pair started their day off with a 2-0 (21-12, 21-19) shutout of USA’s Brooke Sweat and Kerri Walsh Jennings, while Brazilian qualifiers Taina Bigi and Victoria Tosta upset second-seeded reigning world champions Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes of Canada in a 2-1 (17-21, 21-19, 15-8) turnaround.

By dominating the first set, Taina and Victoria were well on their way to another upset in the winners match, but Huberli and Betschart came from behind to claim a 2-1 (14-21, 21-14, 15-9) victory and a spot among the last 16. Pavan and Humana-Paredes managed a 2-1 (21-17, 16-21, 15-9) win in the survival match to push Tokyo 2020 candidates Sweat and Walsh Jennings out of contention in Sochi.

“We really played badly in the first set (against the Brazilians) and we were not in the game, but we managed to forget it after that. We changed our tactics, we changed our mindset, we changed everything... It helped and we are really happy that we won,” Nina Betschart told Volleyball World.

“Yesterday, when we saw our group, we knew we would have to play really well to survive, because it was a really strong pool with a lot of good teams. We knew we would have to go all in against every opponent,” Tanja Huberli added. “Now we are absolutely happy that we could top the pool. It’s great because we don’t have to play the first round, and in the second round, for sure, a really good team will play against us. We are really excited to play another big match against a strong team, because I think this is what we need the most to improve our game ahead of Tokyo.”

Kelly Claes in action

Sarah Sponcil and Kelly Claes, Sweat and Walsh Jennings’ main rivals for one of USA’s Olympic berths, cruised through Pool C without dropping a set – 2-0 (21-12, 21-18) over Italy’s Marta Menegatti and Viktoria Orsi Toth and 2-0 (21-15, 22-20) over third-seeded Brazilians Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda Santos Lisboa.

So did Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson in Pool D. The 20th-seeded Canadians shut out two higher-ranked teams, Germany’s Karla Borger and Julia Sude (13) and Brazil’s Taiana Lima and Talita Antunes (4), somewhat spoiling Taiana Lima’s 37th birthday celebrations.

Victoria Bieneck

Victoria Bieneck and Isabel Schneider (21) also upset two teams above them in the seeding. The Germans achieved a tie-breaker victory in their first Pool E match, 2-1 (23-21, 18-21, 15-10) over USA’s Emily Stockman and Kelley Kolinske (12), before delivering a 2-0 (21-11, 21-12) blowout of Switzerland’s Joana Heidrich and Anouk Verge-Depre (5).

Brazil’s Barbara Seixas and Carol Solberg lost the first set of a high-profile Pool F final against USA’s Alix Klineman and April Ross, but then flipped the script to claim a 2-1 (17-21, 21-17, 15-5) victory.

There were no major surprises in the rest of the pools as top-seeded Nadezda Makroguzova and Svetlana Kholomina of Russia, Margareta Kozuch and Laura Ludwig of Germany and Sanne Keizer and Madelein Meppelink of the Netherlands won Pools A, G and H, respectively.

Quick links:
FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour - Sochi
Olympic Games Tokyo 2020