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Piersma and Van Driel won seven of their eight matches in Morocco to take the title

Emma Piersma and Mexime van Driel had a busy weekend in Agadir, but their long and unpredictable journey in Morocco ended in a remarkable way for them as the Dutch won their first gold medals at a Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Challenge event on Sunday.

The two players, who started the tournament in Thursday’s qualifier, prevailed over Czechs Barbora Hermannova and Marie-Sara Stochlova in the two-set (22-20, 21-3) gold medal match to take the title of the first Beach Pro Tour event held in Africa. Italians Marta Menegatti and Valentina Gottardi claimed bronze.

· Watch all the matches at the Agadir Challenge on Volleyball TV.

Partners for the first time this season, Piersma, 21, and Van Driel, 23, played more matches than any other team this week in Agadir. Besides starting the tournament in the qualifier, they also lost a pool play match and had to compete in the Round of 18, ending the four-day event with eight matches and seven wins – six of which in consecutive matches.

“These past few days have been a crazy journey for us,” Van Driel commented. “We really took the long route to win and I’m really happy that we were able to take home gold.”

The result also helped the Dutch recover from a frustrating 33rd-place finish at last week’s Espinho Challenge, in which they were eliminated in the first round of the qualifier. The pair, who won a Futures event in Cervia, Italy, in May, entered the tournament in Agadir without having won a single main draw match in a Challenge event this season.

Piersma/van Driel vs. Hermannova/Stochlova - Match Highlights

The opening set of the gold medal match remained even until the tenth point, when the Dutch benefited from an ace from Piersma and a block from Van Driel to score five in a row and create a 15-10 lead. Czech veteran Hermannova stepped up her game near the end with transition plays and aces and, helped by a pair of mistakes from Piersma, Stocholova and her turned things around and had an opportunity to take the set at 20-19. The Dutch defender, however, recovered at the end and converted two transition plays to push her team to a 22-20 victory.

In the second set, the lead changes happened earlier. The Czechs were quickly ahead at 4-2, but a transition play well-finished by Piersma made the score even at six points. A block from Hermannova placed the Czechs ahead at 11-10 at the technical timeout, but the Dutch regained the lead at 14-13 with an ace from Piersma. In the next play, Stochlova hit out of bounds and sustained an injury in the abdominal area that forced her to forfeit the rest of the match, giving the Dutch the title.

Menegatti and Gottardi completed the all-European women’s podium in Agadir after they defeated the Canadian twins Megan and Nicole McNamara in straight sets (21-19, 21-16) in the bronze medal match.

Menegatti/Gottardi vs. Megan/Nicole - Match Highlights

It was the first medal won by the Italians in a Beach Pro Tour Challenge event – they took two silvers in Futures events in Madrid, Spain, and Lecce, Italy.

The next Beach Pro Tour Challenge tournament will take place at the Red Sea, in Egypt, from October 5-8. Before that, Elite16 events will be held in Hamburg, Germany, from August 10-14, and Paris, France, from September 28-October 2.