Ljubljana, Slovenia, December 2, 2018 – Panagiota Karagkouni and Vasiliki Arvaniti completed a remarkable return to the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour by winning the women’s gold at the Ljubljana winter edition one-star stop on Sunday.
The eighth-seeded Greeks went unbeaten through their five matches at the Ludus Sports Park indoor venue in the Slovenian capital to climb to the top of the podium for the first time as a team. 33-year-old and three-time Olympian Arvaniti had not competed on the Tour since July 2016 and came back to win the second gold of her career, after her maiden title from the 2005 Stavanger Grand Slam. She also has three World Tour silver medals to her name. For Karagkouni it was only the second medal on the Tour, following a 2017 Monaco one-star bronze.
Second-seeded Vytene Vitkauskaite and Urte Andriukaityte of Lithuania matched their seeding in the competition and finished with the silver medals, their first World Tour medals. While 25-year-old Vitkauskaite was making her first appearance on the Tour, her 21-year-old partner had already played at 10 stops with two fifth place finishes in 2018 as her best results so far. The Ljubljana silver earned by Vitkauskaite and Andriukaityte was also the best result by any Lithuanian women’s team in the history of the World Tour.
The bronze medals went to the Ukrainian tandem of 26-year-old players Diana Lunina and Maryna Samoday. They debuted as a team at the Ljubljana summer edition in August and finished ninth. They followed up with appearances at Qinzhou and Yangzhou in the fall and on all three occasions managed to pass through the qualifications successfully, only to return to Ludus as the highest ranked duo and earn their first ever World Tour medals.
The women’s podium at Ljubljana
Karagkouni and Arvaniti took 32 minutes to tackle the resistance of Vitkauskaite and Andriukaityte in the gold medal match on Sunday afternoon. The Greeks succeeded in straight sets, mastering a 2-0 (21-18, 21-15) victory before triumphing as Ljubljana winter edition champions.
“I wanted to feel this emotion, to play, to enjoy the game... I came here hungry to play, because I was far from the competitions for a long time. I really enjoyed playing here a lot! We won the gold medal and this is a perfect beginning,” Vasiliki Arvaniti exclaimed.
In the bronze medal match, top-seeded Lunina and Samoday were merciless against Latvia’s Varvara Brailko and Anete Namike, delivering a 2-0 (21-14, 21-15) shutout in just 31 minutes.
“I am excited that we won the third place,” Maryna Samoday said. “I think we could really do better, especially in the semifinal match. I was pretty sure the Greeks would win the tournament in the end, because they are a very experienced team. I am glad we got the opportunity to play against them twice to gain more experience ourselves ahead of our future games. I really liked this tournament, and thank goodness we finished on the podium.”
Both semifinals earlier on Sunday were remakes of encounters that had already happened in the pool phase. Once again, the battle between Karagkouni and Arvaniti and Lunina and Samoday was resolved in a tie-breaker and, once again, the Greeks emerged victorious – 2-1 (14-21, 21-13, 15-13). Vitkauskaite and Andriukaityte managed another straight-set victory over Brailko and Namike, only this time the Latvians put on much more of a fight to lose each of the sets by the narrowest of margins and pushed the Lithuanians’ victory well into overtime – 2-0 (21-19, 25-23).