BPT Challenge Itapema - CANvsGER_7562

Borger and Sude celebrate a point during their match against Bukovec and Wilkerson

Karla Borger and Julia Sude knew what they needed coming into this week’s Itapema Challenge. More than a medal or ranking points that would help them later in the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour season, the Germans just wanted to play as many high-level matches as they could on the international beach volleyball circuit.

They didn’t get to do that in the first two events of the season in Mexico, playing only three times at the Tlaxcala Challenge and just twice at the Rosarito Elite16. They will certainly leave Brazil with the feeling they have accomplished their mission, however, as they will end the week at the Meia Praia Beach with seven matches under their belts after qualifying for the semifinals on Saturday.

“We’re a team that need to play a lot of matches to get in a rhythm,” the 34-year-old Sude explained. “We had a long break between the end of last season and the start of this one and it was really hard for us to find our game in Mexico. We were tired after we played three matches on Friday, but now we’re at a point where the more we play, the easier it gets for us on the court. We came here to fight for a good result but we honestly didn’t expect to make it this far.”

· Watch all the matches of the Itapema Challenge live or on demand on Volleyball TV.

The German Olympians, who won the 2019 FIVB World Tour Finals and are currently placed sixth in the FIVB World Rankings, will meet Americans Sarah Hughes and Kelley Kolinske in one of the semifinals in Itapema on Sunday at 9.00 local time, with Brazilians Andressa Cavalcanti and Vitoria Rodrigues set to face Dutch Raisa Schoon and Katja Stam in the other at 10.30.

The Germans’ adventure in Brazil began even before the start of the tournament in Itapema as Borger had to go to a hospital to get stitches on her head after accidentally hitting a wall in a restaurant in the city just a few days before their debut. And she wasn't sure she would be able to play.

Brandie Bukovec vs. Borger Sude - Match Highlights

After the two were cleared, they made the most of it, taking their place on the court three times on Friday. On Saturday, the Germans certainly got the high-level matches they were looking for as they downed top-seeded Brazilians Talita Antunes and Rebecca Cavalcanti 2-0 (21-19, 21-17) in the Round of 16 and eliminated Canadian Olympian Brandie Wilkerson and new partner Sophie Bukovec in the quarterfinals, also in two sets (21-19, 27-25).

“We played a solid first set, but made our lives really hard in the second,” Borger said of the duel with the Canadians. “I’m proud that we fought back, it was an intense match. We came to Brazil to get into a better rhythm and having two more matches on Sunday fits perfectly into our plan. We wanted to play some high-level matches this week and we got the most we could and that’s awesome. Tomorrow we’ll just put all the energy we have left on the court into it and see where it takes us.”

BPT Challenge Itapema - CANvsGER_7575

Sude attempts to block Bukovec in Itapema

Their next opponents, Hughes and Kolinske also had a big day in Itapema, cruising past Italian qualifiers Margherita Bianchin and Claudia Scampoli to a straight-set (21-10, 21-16) victory in the Round of 16 and prevailing in a closely-contested quarterfinal duel with Brazilians Carol Salgado and Barbara Seixas, which they won 2-1 (21-14, 21-23, 15-12).

The second semifinal in Itapema will reunite the hottest team of the season so far, Dutch pair Schoon and Stam, and the duo that upset them on Friday in Itapema, Andressa and Victoria.

The Dutch, who won gold in Rosarito and silver in Tlaxcala, advanced to their third semifinal in 2022 with a straight-set (21-14, 21-15) win against Brazilians Taiana Lima and Hegeile ‘Hege’ Santos. Andressa and Vitoria secured their first final four appearance on the Beach Pro Tour after they defeated Germans Sandra Ittlinger and Isabel Scheinder in three sets (17-21, 21-18, 15-13).

Andressa Vitoria vs. Ittlinger Schneider - Match Highlights

The Challenge events represent one of the three levels of the Beach Pro Tour. They are ranked between the Elite16, which feature the highest level of the sport, and the Futures, which offer young, up-and-coming players access to international beach volleyball, and feed into the elite of the sport.