Las Vegas, USA, October 20, 2018 – Sarah Pavan/Melissa Humana-Paredes and Heather Bansley/Brandie Wilkerson are set to star the first-ever all-Canadian gold medal match of the FIVB World Tour as both teams have advanced to the final of the Las Vegas Open presented by p1440.
The bronze medal match of the four-star tournament will also feature a national affair with Brazilian teams of Rebecca Silva/Ana Patricia Ramos and Carolina Salgado/Maria Elisa Antonelli competing for the final spot at the podium at the American resort city.
Pavan and Humana-Paredes, who kicked off their 2018-2019 season with a fourth-place finish in Yangzhou last week, had to play three times on Saturday on their way to the elusive gold medal match. They started their journey in the Round of 16, where they dominated Poland’s Kinga Kolosinska and Katarzyna Kociolek to a 21-17, 21-15 victory.
In the quarterfinals, the Canadians had another straight-set (21-14, 21-16) win, this one over Italians Marta Menegatti and Viktoria Orsi Toth. Their final step towards the final was a 2-0 (21-14, 21-19) triumph over Rebecca and Ana Partricia. The victory was sealed with a couple of blocks from Pavan.
“I just tried to take away my zone to make Melissa’s job as easy as possible,” the 1.96m-blocker said. “They’re a strong attacking team, which works in our favor, and it was just remembering their tendencies and exploring them at the end. Now we have the last game of the year in front of us, so we got nothing to hold back and we’re going to leave everything on the court.”
The Canadians, who won gold medals in Gstaad and Xiamen in the 2017-2018 season, are the only team to not have dropped any sets in the tournament so far.
“It feels great that we’ve managed to play so well and to have such an amazing game leading to the final,” Humana-Paredes remarked. “Our blocking-defense and our serving have been crucial for us and this is the result. We need to stay focused on setting ourselves up for being able to take advantage of it.”
Wilkerson and Bansley high five after they scored a point against Brazil
Wilkerson and Bansley also won all of their five matches in Las Vegas so far, but unlike their opponents they lost one set in their semifinal as they prevailed over Carolina and Maria Antonelli in three sets (21-18, 22-24, 15-11).
“It was a very emotional match,” Wilkerson stated. “All four of us wanted it really bad and we played each other multiple times this year and that’s very tough mentally. Heather and I just steadied out, we stayed together and made sure we cleaned up on our end and took care of what we needed to do.”
The Canadians had a pair of earlier matches before the semifinal as they cruised past Spain’s Liliana Fernandez and Elsa Baquerizo in a two-set (21-14, 21-15) Round of 16 matchup and posted a 25-23, 21-12 victory over USA’s Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman in the quarterfinals.
The team, which started its campaign in Las Vegas against fellow Canadians Taylor Pischke and Kristina May, is now looking forward to end it the same way against Pavan and Humana-Paredes.
“It’s really great for our program,” Bansley said about the all-Canadian final. “We want to qualify two Canadian teams for the Olympics and this is part of it, so to see the two of us in the finals against each other means a lot.”