BPT Challenge Itapema - NEDvsUSA_9540

Katja Stam (NED) blocks Sara Hughes (USA) at the net

The fourth event on the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour, the Itapema Challenge came to an end with victories for two countries with long traditions in the sport as hosts Brazil won the men’s title and the United State triumphed among the women.

The victories of Andre Loyola/George Wanderley and Sara Hughes/Kelley Kolinske capped off a week of exceptional beach volleyball at the Meia Praia Beach and highlighted the high level of competition displayed since Thursday’s qualifier.

The gold medal matches were obviously the climax of the event, but there were memorable matches taking place from the very first day. The best way to recap the tournament is to re-live some of these encounters, so here are five matches we suggest you watch on demand on Volleyball TV.

Andre/George (BRA) vs. Perusic/Schweiner (CZE)

The final match of the Itapema Challenge on Sunday was the result of everything that happened previously during the week at the Meia Praia Beach. There was incredible energy coming off the stands as well as drama and back-and-forth action on the sand, providing the perfect ending to a memorable few days in Brazil.

Already highly successful in Itapema in the past, Brazilians Andre and George started slowly and let the first set slip against the talented Ondrej Perusic and David Schweiner, but got into their rhythm in time and pushed towards victory. The winners of the final FIVB World Tour event in Itapema last year, the Brazilian pair celebrated with their fans once again thanks to Andre’s solid presence at the net and George’s efficiency on the backcourt.

Perusic/Schweiner vs. George/Andre - Match Highlights

Hughes/Kolinske (USA) vs. Schoon/Stam (NED)

Playing in just their third tournament as partners, Americans Hughes and Kolinske answered the question nine among ten beach volleyball players were asking themselves before the start of the Itapema Challenge – can anyone stop Raisa Schoon and Katja Stam?

The Americans not only could but did. And they did so in great style with an impressive performance in Sunday’s gold medal match in Itapema. Kolinske is one of the few blockers to be able to battle the 1.90m-tall Stam at the net and Hughes was nearly flawless behind her, playing some of her best volleyball in a few years. This team are still in their early days, but this was a victory that will resonate and could boost their confidence going forward.

Gold medal match highlights: Stam/Schoon vs. Kolinske/Hughes

Schoon/Stam (NED) vs. Huberli/Brunner (SUI)

When two teams that are part of the top three in the world meet, it’s always worth stopping to watch. That was also the case when Stam and Schoon and Swiss pair Tanja Huberli and Nina Brunner met on Saturday in the Round of 16 in a rematch of last year’s European Championship gold medal match.

The Dutch got payback from Vienna and continued on their way to becoming the first team to play in three finals on the Beach Pro Tour. Their victory also had long-term implications. After eliminating the Swiss, Schoon and Stam are now first in the FIVB World Rankings.

Stam Schoon vs. Hüberli Brunner - Match Highlights

Krou/Gauthier-Rat (FRA) vs. Perusic/Schweiner (CZE)

In beach volleyball, it’s common to say that a tournament doesn’t actually start until the first upset takes place. If that’s the case, the Itapema Challenge started on Friday, the first day of the main draw, when Czechs Perusic and Schweiner and French Youssef Krou and Arnaud Gauthier-Rat met.

Ranked sixth in the world, the Czech Olympians were the undisputed favourites. But the French created the surprise to catch their opponents off guard and create the thinnest of margins to win 2-0 (21-19, 21-19). The Czechs, however, got revenge the next day in the quarterfinals, but in a few years from now, it could be the pool play matchup between the the two teams which is remembered.

Perusic/Schweiner vs. Krou/Gauthier-Rat - Match Highlights

Arthur Mariano/Adrielson (BRA) vs. Pedro Solberg/Arthur Lanci (BRA)

The qualifier in Itapema had a whopping ten Brazilian teams entered in it. With such a high number of local teams involved, it was evident duos from the host country would clash sooner or later. And there was one such clash in the second round of the qualifier, with a main draw spot on the line, when Pedro Solberg/Arhtur Lanci took on Arthur Mariano/Adrielson dos Santos.

There was a lot of drama involved in the battle. Lanci is good friends with his opponents and practices with them in Maringa. And the decision went down to the wire. In the end, Arthur Mariano’s eight blocks proved to be the difference and helped his team move forward in the tournament with a dramatic 15-13 victory in the tie-breaker.

Pedro Solberg/Arthur vs. Arthur/Adrielson - Match Highlights