Ljubljana, Slovenia, November 29, 2018 – Eight teams from eight different countries won all their qualification matches at the Ljubljana winter edition one-star stop on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour in Slovenia to progress to Friday’s main draw. Pairs from Belgium, Denmark, Italy and Poland were successful in the women’s bracket, while duos from Hungary, Latvia, Norway and Russia achieved advancement to the men’s best 16.
Belgium’s Sarah Cools and Lisa Van Den Vonder, seeded fourth in the women’s qualification bracket, managed two straight-set victories on the way to the main draw. They started off with a 2-0 (21-13, 21-17) win over Spain’s Nazaret Florian and Nuria Bouza and followed up with a hard-fought 2-0 (21-19, 27-25) nail-biter over Italy’s Elena Colombi and Sara Breidenbach.
Belgium’s Lisa Van Den Vonder in action
“The first set was good, but it was a little bit stressful at the end. We were nervous before the match, because it was a win-or-go-home situation,” Sarah Cools said after the win over Italy. “But we fought hard and it was nice to finish with a winning set. Italy proved to be a tough opponent. They won every ball with second hand and we didn’t have an answer to it. Like today, we aim to fight for every ball tomorrow again, and then we will see what happens match by match.”
Poland’s Kinga Legieta and Aneta Kaczmarek had a tough start against Panna Gyori and Eszter Kovacs of Hungary, but managed to win the tie-breaker for a 2-1 (21-13, 19-21, 15-11) first round victory. In the decisive second round the Polish duo delivered a 2-0 (21-17, 21-13) shutout of Italy’s Debora Allegretti and Eleonora Annibalini.
Still, one of the three Italian pairs emerged successful from the qualifications. Bottom-seeded Jessica Jenifer Luca and Jessica Allegretti claimed a 2-0 (21-15, 21-13) win over Czech snow volleyball standouts Anna Dostalova and Michaela Knoblochova, seeded second and converted it with a come-from-behind 2-1 (15-21, 21-15, 15-11) victory over Austria’s Marilena Preiml and Saria Gschoepf.
Going through the first round with a bye, all top-seeded Helle Sondergard and Clara Windeleff of Denmark had to do was win their second round game with Hungary’s Liza Lutter and Kitti Szombathelyi by a speedy 2-0 (21-15, 21-9). Lutter and Szombathelyi still gained a spot in the main draw as “lucky losers.”
"We were a bit nervous at the beginning, as this was our first tournament together and it’s Clara’s first international appearance at the senior level,” Helle Sondergard commented. “But after being 5-0 behind, we took control over the match. We think we can grow from match to match. We feel we gained control over our game, and we can stay in this tournament for quite a while."
On the men’s side, Hungary’s Artur Hajos and Balazs Benko did not waste much time in winning both their qualification matches on Thursday. They mastered a 2-0 (21-18, 21-14) victory over Norway’s Jan Erik Moen and Sadegh Mohajer in 34 minutes of first round play. The all-Hungarian clash of the second round between Hajos and Benko and their compatriots Botond Olah and Bence Attila Streli lasted only 28 minutes and finished with a landslide 2-0 (21-14, 21-11) final score.
In a similar fashion, Matiss Gabdullins and Mihails Samoilovs of Latvia, seeded third in the qualification bracket, cruised to speedy two set wins – 2-0 (21-16, 21-8) over Croatia’s Josip Pribanic and Matija Gracin and 2-0 (21-19, 21-17) over Denmark’s Mads Rosager and Jacob Stein Brinck.
“We have two reasons to be happy today,” Mihails Samoilovs pointed out. “It is our first FIVB event and for my partner, who is typically an indoor player, this is the first beach volleyball appearance. We are happy we got the opportunity to represent our country in the main draw for the first time. We will show our best tomorrow.”
Second-seeded Norwegians Jorn Olav Gamlemoen and Christian Helland started their day with a 2-0 (21-18, 21-10) victory over Slovenian wild card hopefuls Uros Erpic and Matija Primec and went on to defeat Czechia’s Tomas Pala and Ondrej Sotola by 2-0 (21-16, 21-13).
The only qualifiers, who dropped a set along the way to the men’s main draw, were Russia’s Daniil Kuvichka and Anton Kislytsyn. In their first match of the qualification tournament, they knocked out Austria’s Simon Baldauf and Jakob Reiter with a come-from-behind 2-1 (18-21, 21-12, 15-8) victory, but managed their second-round opponents, Brandon Joyner and Christian Honer of USA, in straight sets – 2-0 (24-22, 21-13).
“It was really hard today. This was our first FIVB World Tour appearance and it was really important for us to qualify for the main draw,” Daniil Kuvichka said. “Both matches were difficult. We just want to play more teams and gain more experience. We want to qualify for the playoffs. I think we can do it. We will try to win the first match, and then we will see.”
Women’s main draw action is set to start at 08:30 local time on Thursday. The men will jump in at 12:30.