The Hague, The Netherlands, June 17, 2017 - Four women’s morning matches here Saturday set the schedule for the afternoon semi-final meetings as pairs from Brazil, Canada and Switzerland earned “final four” berths for this week’s US$150,000 FIVB World Tour event.
With the Dela Beach Open being the “most unique” event in the 30-year history of the FIVB World Tour due to matches being played on both outdoor and indoor courts along with the event being held in conjunction with a FIVB World League competition. In addition, the “rarity” of the weekend continues as the four semi-finals are “new” partnership this season.
The first semi-final match will feature a team playing in their fourth-straight “final four” this season (fourth-seeded Agatha Bednarczuk/Eduarda "Duda" Lisboa of Brazil) versus a tandem competing in their first “medal round” jointly (17th-seeded Joana Heidrich/Anouk Verge-Depre of Switzerland).
Joana Heidrich (left) watches a Mikasa reception by Swiss partner Anouk Verge-Depre
The second semi-final will be a continental match featuring North Americans from Canada (10th-seeded Melissa Humana-Paredes/Sarah Pavan) and South Americans for Brazil (15th-seeded qualifiers Maria Antonelli/Carolina Salgado of Brazil). While the Brazilians will be playing in their first semi-final in only their second FIVB World tour event together, the Canadians are second-time “final four” participants together).
With three of the four quarter-final matches being played on the outdoor court at the Sportcampus Zuiderpark, Heidrich and Verge-Depre posted a 2-0 (21-17, 21-16) win in 36 minutes over fifth-seeded Summer Ross/Brooke Sweat of the United States, Agatha and Duda eliminated top-seeded compatriots Talita Antunes/Larissa Franca 2-0 (21-17, 21-15) in 31 minutes and Antonelli/Carolina ousted 11th-seeded Louise Bawden/Taliqua Clancy of Australia 2-0 (21-17, 23-21) in 40 minutes.
The lone indoor match was the All-Canadian affair as Humana-Paredes and Pavan ousted 12th-seeded Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson 2-0 (21-18, 21-7) in 31 minutes. The only previous meeting between the two teams was last September in a play-in match for the SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals in Toronto with Bansley and Wilkerson winning.
In playing a match against her former Rio 2016 Olympic partner Bansley, Pavan said "we prepared the same like we do every day. We treated this game the exact way. To make a final four you have to bring the intensity and you need to be consistent. Ex-partners play each other all the time. It's just part of the game. I am just proud the way we stepped up today and we really played well."
Humana-Parede noted that "playing with Sarah has tought me so many things, showing me a lot of areas I need to improve on my game. And I think she has been a really great mentor. And our team back home has been really helpful bringing me to this next level and until this year, I hadn't reached a final four. This is our second one in three tournaments. It's been fast and it's a lot, but we are still learning every day and it's so much fun."
Having "fun" in the sand is Canadian Melissa Humana-Paredes
After securing their fourth-straight semi-final appearance and first-ever win in three FIVB matches with Talita and Larissa, Agatha said “I love this city. It’s so special for me as I won the world championships here two years ago. So, I want to make repeat history here this weekend with my new partner.”
Agatha and the 18-year old Duda will be seeking their fourth FIVB World Tour medal after placing second in the season-opening event in the United States, winning gold in Rio and placing third two weeks ago in Moscow. Talita and Larissa defeated Agatha and Duda in the finale at the Fort Lauderdale Major in mid-February and in the Russian capital semi-finals.
From the Swiss vantage point, Verge-Depre said this week’s event was her team’s “third tournament on the FIVB World Tour, so we are really happy about the final four. We want a medal and will focus on every game. First, we need recover and get some sleep, because we had a short night. But we are ready for this.”
Heidrich also talked about the short turn-around from playing Thursday evening to early Friday morning, and said that playing outdoors for the first-time in the Dela Beach Open “presented some new conditions, but we did great. At the start of the match, I had some problems in passing and attacking, but I got better and better as the match progressed.”
Following The Hague stop, the seventh double gender stop on the 2017 FIVB World Tour calendar, the international circuit takes a week off before resuming play with SWATCH Major Series stops in Croatia (Porec, June 27-July 2) and Switzerland (Gstaad, July 4-9).
Highlighting the 2017 international calendar for men and women Beach Volleyball players will be the $1-million FIVB World Championships July 28 through August 6 in Vienna, Austria and the $800,000 SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals August 23-27 in Hamburg, Germany. Overall, there are 15 men’s and 19 women’s events on the $5.335-million FIVB World Tour schedule.