Ljubljana, Slovenia, November 30, 2018 – Jessica Jenifer Luca and Jessica Allegretti, the 14th-seeded Italians, who made it to the women’s main draw at the Ljubljana winter edition one-star stop on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour after emerging from Thursday’s qualification, continued their successful run on Friday and advanced directly to the quarterfinals, along with teams from Greece, Lithuania and Slovenia.
Luca and Allegretti topped the standings in Pool C after hammering out a 2-0 (21-16, 21-15) upset of third-seeded Swedes Isabelle Pahlsson and Anniken Radstrom in their opening match and shutting out Hungarians Eszter Lutter and Szandra Szombathelyi by 2-0 (21-18, 21-13) in the winners’ game.
Three-time Olympian Vasiliki Arvaniti returned to the World Tour after last appearing in July 2016. The 33-year-old Greek beach volleyball star is playing at Ljubljana with her 2016 partner Panagiota Karagkouni. Seeded eighth in the main draw bracket, Karagkouni and Arvaniti claimed two victories on Friday and advanced straight to the quarters. The Greeks mastered a speedy 2-0 (21-17, 21-8) win over Switzerland’s Tatjana Greber and Melina Huebscher before defeating top-seeded Ukrainians Diana Lunina and Maryna Samoday in three sets – 2-1 (21-17, 19-21, 15-9).
“It was a tough day for us, but winning two games out of two after two and a half years being off the court is really nice,” Arvaniti admitted. “Ukraine played really well, but in the crucial moments we were more decisive. It was really tough and we enjoyed the fight for every ball. We want to play every game like this. Since we don’t know any of the other teams we can just focus on our own performance and try to improve from game to game. It is a very nice competition, my first time at an indoor tournament, and I am really enjoying it. The atmosphere is nice, the venue is very good and I am impressed!”
Two quick and emphatic wins in Pool B propelled Vytene Vitkauskaite and Urte Andriukaityte to the quarterfinals. The second-seeded Lithuanians left no doubts in their superiority over Slovenia’s Klara Kregar and Katarina Fabjan – 2-0 (21-5, 21-7), hammered out in just 21 minutes of play. In the pool final Vitkauskaite and Andriukaityte mastered a 26-minute 2-0 (21-11, 21-10) victory over Latvia’s Varvara Brailko and Anete Namike.
The highest ranked Slovenian pair, fourth-seeded Nina Lovsin and Ana Skarlovnik, pleased the home crowd by winning Pool D. They started off with a speedy 2-0 (21-12, 21-11) shutout of Poland’s Kinga Legieta and Aneta Kaczmarek and followed up with another straight-set victory, 2-0 (21-17, 21-17), over Belgium’s Sarah Cools and Lisa Van Den Vonder.
In the pool’s survival match the Polish team managed a 2-0 (21-16, 21-16) win, sending 48-year-old Melissa Coutts and her 32-year-old partner Lynne Beattie back to Scotland.
“It wasn’t an easy victory. This is our first tournament as a team and only our fourth match together,” Legieta and Kaczmarek commented. “We didn’t have much time to play together before this tournament, so we are very happy for this win. After the first match against Slovenia, who played really well and didn’t make any mistakes while we were making many, we played a lot better in the second match. For the elimination matches we just want to have a lot of fun on the court, be happy and implement our tactics, hopefully getting to the semifinals. It was a good idea to organize this winter edition tournament. It is almost like playing outside. We are very happy to be here. Very good job, Slovenia!”
The four remaining spots in the quarterfinals will be filled in the first knock-out round on Saturday afternoon, when the four pool runners-up from Ukraine, Latvia, Hungary and Belgium will face the third-placed duos from Slovenia, Poland, Denmark and Switzerland, respectively.