Sydney, Australia, November 26, 2017 – Australia’s Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy lived up to their status as the top-seeded team in the women’s main draw and triumphed with the gold medals at the Sydney two-star event on the 2018 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour.
Having won gold at their previous participation in a World Tour event, the Qinzhou three-star in October, the Aussies took the home sand advantage on Manly Beach to make it two in a row. For each of these two 2016 Olympians, this is the third World Tour medal overall. It is the first international tournament win at home by an Australian women’s team since Kerri Pottharst and Natalie Cook won gold at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Clancy and Artacho del Solar are the first Australian women’s team to win a World Tour event at home since the Tour began in 1992. Now they are hoping to be selected to represent Australia at the first appearance of beach volleyball at the Commonwealth Games in April 2018 in Gold Coast.
The silver medal went to China’s Fan Wang and Xinyi Xia, while Austria’s Katharina Schuetzenhoefer and Lena Plesiutschnig snatched the bronze leaving Japan’s Azusa Futami and Akiko Hasegawa fourth in the final standings.
The women's podium on Manly Beach
Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy stormed into the first set of the final with a 4-0 run, but Fan Wang and Xinyi Xia recovered to level the score momentarily at 7-7. However, the Australians regained control and gradually started extending a gap until Clancy’s spike closed the set in their favour. The second set was all about the home team. With the crowded stands on their side, Artacho del Solar and Clancy continued their smooth performance to stay on top. In the last rally, Artacho del Solar tipped the ball for a short shot to fix the victory at 2-0 (21-17, 21-14). For Xinyi Xia, this is the eighth World Tour medal, while for her partner Fan Wang it is the fourth podium finish.
The Australian crowd doing The Sprinkler dance during the final
“We are just having so much fun out there, which makes it look easy. We trust and believe in each other, and that belief is what makes us so smooth,” an elated Mariafe Artacho del Solar said after the final whistle. “I love coming back home to Manly. This is where I began playing beach volleyball. It means so much to play here, but even more – to win.”
In a very interesting bronze medal match, Azusa Futami and Akiko Hasegawa took control of the scoreboard after 8-8 in the first set and ran off to a convincing win. The Japanese had a 17-13 lead in the second set and looked all set for a victorious finish, but some spectacular defensive actions by Katharina Schuetzenhoefer gave the Austrians the next point and marked the beginning of a great comeback. The European team battled back to save a double match point and win the set in the overtime, and used the momentum to dominate in the tie-breaker to triumph with a 2-1 (16-21, 24-22, 15-10) victory. Lena Plesiutschnig already had won one bronze earlier in 2017, but for her current teammate Schuetzenhoefer this is the first medal on the World Tour.
In the all-Asian semifinal earlier in the day, Futami and Hasegawa stayed competitive through 15-15 in the first set, after which Wang and Xia shot forward to win the first set and maintain a lead throughout the second on the way to a 2-0 (21-16, 21-15) win.
The other semifinal was quite one-sided with Artacho del Solar and Clancy staying focused all through the match to establish total control on the sand and master a crushing 2-0 (21-10, 21-6) victory over Schuetzenhoefer and Plesiutschnig in just 26 minutes.