01_BPT Rosarito - Qualification NEDvsMEX

Raisa Schoon and Katja Stam

For the first time on their journey as a team, Katja Stam and Raisa Schoon will be the top-seeded pair at a major international tournament. The world's new number ones will lead women’s duos from 22 different countries whose names are on the entry list for the Doha Challenge next month.

With all the action available live on Volleyball TV, the third Challenge event on the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour will take place in the Qatari capital from May 5 through 8. 45 women's pairs will battle for their slice of the USD 75,000 prize purse, competing in a 24-team main draw format featuring modified pool play followed by direct eliminations, with 16 duos seeded directly and the other eight spots filled through a knockout qualifier.

Last year, Stam and Schoon of the Netherlands outplayed expectations to earn a berth at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Then they reached the final of the 2021 CEV Beach Volleyball European Championship. And this year they have been the hottest item on the all-new Beach Pro Tour, making the trophy matches at all three of their appearances and claiming gold at the Rosarito Elite16 and silvers at the inaugural Tlaxcala Challenge and last week’s Itapema Challenge. As of this week, 23-year-old Stam and 20-year-old Schoon are the new number one team in the FIVB World Ranking.

The entry list for Doha also includes as many as four Brazilian pairs, led by second-seeded Talita Antunes and Rebecca Silva. 39-year-old Talita, a three-time Olympian and two-time Olympic semifinalist, teamed up with 28-year-old Rebecca for the new Olympic cycle and they immediately medalled with a bronze at their Beach Pro Tour debut in Rosarito.

Another pair of Brazilian stars, consisting of Barbara Seixas (a 2016 Olympic silver medallist) and her partner Carol Solberg - the two joined forces last year - are seeded sixth. They topped the podium in Tlaxcala at the start of this season and are currently ranked third in the world. Tlaxcala bronze medallists Elize Maia and Thamela Coradello, and Taina Bigi and Victoria Lopes are seeded seventh and ninth, respectively, in the Doha main draw.

Three Swiss pairs are also heading to the Qatari capital, with reigning European champions Nina Brunner and Tanja Huberli leading the way in seed three. Tokyo 2020 bronze medallists Joana Heidrich and Anouk Verge-Depre are seeded fifth, while Esmee Bobner and Zoe Verge-Depre (Anouk's younger sister) are in position 12.

Germany has three duos in the main draw too: Cinja Tillmann and Svenja Muller, seeded eighth, 2021 World Tour Finals winners and current number six in the World Ranking Karla Borger and Julia Sude, seeded 10th, and Sarah Schulz and Chantal Laboureur, seeded 16th. A fourth German team, Sandra Ittlinger and Isabel Schneider lead the line-up of 29 qualifier entries.

Another duo that stands out among the Doha main draw entries is that of Australia’s Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho Del Solar, who won silver at the Tokyo Olympics last year. They are in seed four.

The list of teams already positioned in the Doha Challenge women’s main draw is completed by Japan's Miki Ishii and Sayaka Mizoe, Spain's Belen Carro and Angela Lobato, Poland's Kinga Wojtasik and Katarzyna Kociolek and Czechia's Barbora Hermannova and Marie-Sara Stochlova.