Agatha and Duda top a competitive field on women’s World Tour

Lausanne, Switzerland, December 28, 2018 – Brazil’s Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda ‘Duda’ Santos Lisboa ended the 2017-18 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour as World Tour champions, but it was another season that underlined the strength of the women’s beach volleyball with a number of teams topping the podium throughout the season. 

With Tokyo 2020 Olympic Qualification due to begin in 2018-19, the 2017-18 season was a chance for new partnerships to take shape, and for teams to lay down markers for when qualifying begins. 

Agatha and Duda crowned their season when they won gold at the Hamburg 2018 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Finals with a 2-0 (21-15, 21-19) victory over the Czech Republic’s Barbara Hermannova and Marketa Slukova. 

It meant that the 35-year-old Agatha and 20-year-old Duda ended the season with another medal to add to the one gold, one silver and one bronze that they had already won on the World Tour. 

“I know Agatha is there to help me, so I just try to stay positive,” Duda said after their win in Hamburg. “I try to pay attention to anything she says, but sometimes I think we just have to follow our intuitions. But I know how helpful she can be and I try to listen to her all the time.”

For Hermannova and Slukova, who teamed up in 2015, 2018 proved to be a breakthrough year. 

They had featured at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games, and won one silver and one bronze in 2017. In 2018 they ended their wait for gold by topping the podium in front of their home fans at the Ostrava 4-Star. Later in the summer, at the Vienna 5-Star, they added another gold to go into Hamburg 2018 full of confidence. 

“It’s a dream come true,” Slukova said after their win in Ostrava. “It’s great to win gold and it’s even greater to win it at home, in front of such an amazing crowd.”

Another team that really made their mark in 2018 was Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy, who completed the Hamburg 2018 podium with World Tour Finals bronze. 

The Australians teamed up at the start of 2017 and they won gold at the 2017 Qinzhou 3-Star to show their potential ahead of the 2018 World Tour. 

They added another two golds, at the Lucerne 3-Star and Espinho 4-Star, as well as bronze at the Xiamen 4-Star. Earlier in the season they won silver in front of their home crowd when beach volleyball made its Commonwealth Games debut at Gold Coast 2018. To round off a memorable year they then won gold at the AVC Asia Beach Volleyball Championships. 

“I’m so proud of what we’ve done and achieved,” said Clancy. “We set out some goals of what we wanted to achieve this year and I think we’ve actually reached all of them.”

Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan were the pair who pipped Clancy and Artacho to the inaugural Commonwealth Games gold, and the Canadians also won gold at the Xiamen 4-Star and Gstaad 5-Star.

Their compatriots Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson won gold at the Warsaw 4-Star tournament, silver at the Ostrava 4-Star, and bronze at the Itapema 4-Star and Gstaad 5-Star.

“It feels great. It’s so exciting,” Bansley said after the final in Warsaw. “It was a battle. We expected a tough match. It went back and forth for a little while, but I am proud of the way we kept our heads down, we kept pushing, working hard and fighting all the way to the end.”

Two USA teams managed to win gold in 2017-18. Rio 2016 bronze medallist April Ross decided to team up with former volleyball professional Alix Klineman for her assault on the Tokyo 2020 medals and also brought in former partner Jennifer Kessy as their coach. 

They made an immediate impact when they went undefeated from qualifying to win gold at The Hague 4-Star in the first week of 2018. Ross and Klineman then reached four quarterfinals, before they returned to the World Tour podium with gold at the Yangzhou 4-Star tournament. 

“We have a great feeling and we’re all on the same page,” Ross said after their win in The Hague. “We all have the same mentality, the same culture and same values. 

“That matters so much when you’re on the court and you’re playing so hard for each other. It is a really, really special feeling out there.”

Sarah Hughes and Summer Ross enjoyed similar success after they paired up in April. They showed their potential with bronze at the Espinho 4-Star and they beat Agatha and Duda to win gold at the Moscow 4-Star tournament in August. Just for good measure Hughes and Summer rounded of the year with bronze at the Yangzhou 4-Star. 

The Hague 4-Star marked a full-time return to the court for Sanne Keizer. The Dutch player retired following the London 2012 Olympic Games, but following the birth of two children she had a taste of action in 2017 before Madelein Meppelink persuaded her to return to life as a professional. 

They built slowly and qualified for the World Tour Finals following silvers at the Mersin 3-Star and Vienna 5-Star. Then to underline that they will be tricky opponents ahead of Tokyo 2020 they won gold at the CEV European Championships. 

“Now it is full-time,” Keizer said at The Hague 4-Star. “Last year I was playing here because the partner of Madelein was injured, but that was the tournament where I felt like I could still do it and I still wanted it.

“Of course, over the last few years it was always in my head that I wanted to come back and then there was a chance and I’m so happy I’m back. Now I have my head fully back on the sand and I love that.”


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