Espinho, Portugal, July 7, 2018 – Fifth-seeded Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho triumphed with the women’s gold medals at the Espinho four-star stop on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour after a fantastic performance on the Atlantic coast sand in Portugal in Saturday’s final. The Australian pair are continuing the great World Tour season they have been having with their fourth gold medal as a team. Out of the eight events they have played so far since the season started in October they also have one third-place podium finish.
Fourth-seeded Maria Antonelli and Carolina Solberg Salgado settled for the silver. While each of the two Brazilians is well decorated on the World Tour, for the team this is the fourth medal. Until now they had one gold and two silver medals in their showcase.
Quick links - Beach volleyball:
USA’s Sara Hughes and Summer Ross, seeded sixth, completed the podium as bronze medallists. While Ross already had four World Tour medals to her name, for Hughes this was the first time she reached the final four.
The gold medal final was the only match of the day that finished in straight sets. After a solid early lead for Maria Antonelli and Carol in the first set, Clancy and Artacho Del Solar fought their way back to not only catch up at 17-17, but also jump ahead to a 19-17 lead. The Brazilians tied it at 19-19, before the Aussies reached the first set point. The two sides traded set points before a fantastic rally featuring two great saves by Artacho finished with a monster block by Clancy for the set. The second set went level until two consecutive precision-placed aces by Clancy gave the Australians a 13-10 lead. This was a blow the South Americans never managed to recover from. For the winning point Clancy attacked mercilessly on second touch to close the match at 2-0 (23-21, 21-17).
“It was a good match! We knew that we had to bring out our A-game. Maria and Carol are an extremely good team, so we really knew we had to fight and battle. We stayed strong together and patient and kept our trust that we could deliver,” Mariafe Artacho said after the final.
“We had a disappointing last week at Warsaw. We didn’t like the way that we played, so it was important to get back our belief and trust in our game. We kept delivering and it was fun!” Taliqua Clancy commented.
“It was amazing to play here. It was amazing how we played all the games until the final, but in the final I didn’t have the willpower to change the situation. Of course I am sad, but I am also proud because we won some difficult matches. We fought a lot during the entire tournament,” Maria Antonelli stated.
“It is so frustrating to have a great tournament and play a bad final. I know we can play much better than this. But, of course, I am happy to be in the final. It’s always good. We were really strong throughout the tournament, except for the last match, where the Australians played really well. They are a great team, they played better and they won,” Carol added.
Hughes and Summer had to come back from a set down in the bronze medal match before celebrating with a 2-1 (17-21, 21-13, 15-11) victory over 14th-seeded Kinga Kolosinska and Katarzyna Kociolek of Poland. The Americans managed to wipe out an early three-point deficit, but the next time the Poles opened a gap this wide they held on to it to win the set. Hughes and Summer quickly took control of the second set and with an emphatic win prompted the tie-breaker. Kolosinska and Kociolek held up for a little while longer, but the Americans were just too strong for them and cruised on to the victory and the bronze.
“We are just so excited, because we worked very hard together and to be able to get on that podium means everything to us. During the match we just had to work together, fire up and give it all that we got, and that’s what we did,” Sara Hughes said. “We love it here!”
Maria Antonelli and Carol really cruised through the first set of their semifinal against Kolosinska and Kociolek. The Poles stormed into the second with a 3-0 lead and, although the Brazilians caught up quickly, managed to maintain a slight advantage to level the match. The tie-breaker was a fierce battle for every point. After several switches in the lead, Maria Antonelli and Carol kept cooler in the conclusive moments to celebrate a 2-1 (21-10, 18-21, 15-12) victory.
The first set of the earlier semifinal started very competitive, but after 12-12, Hughes and Summer started breaking away gradually to take the lead. The second set followed the exact same scenario, but in the opposite direction, so Clancy and Artacho Del Solar managed to draw level. Taliqua Clancy really dominated at the net during the tie-breaker to give her team the edge on the way to a 2-1 (15-21, 21-15, 15-8) win.