Raisa Schoon and Katja Stam came out of nowhere to become the youngest team to compete at the Tokyo Olympics last year. Some might have seen their accomplishment as a stroke of luck, but it’s hard to maintain that opinion after what the Dutch did in the last two weeks of Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour action in Mexico.
Rosarito takeaway: Schoon and Stam are here to stay
Their victory in the first Elite 16 event confirms the Dutch as one of the top teams in international beach volleyball
Published 01:00, 28 Mar 2022
The young Dutch pair were the only team to make it on to the podium at the two events held in the country, taking silver at the Tlaxcala Challenge and improving to gold at the Rosarito Elite 16. And they certainly erased any doubts about where they belong in international volleyball.
Stam/Schoon vs. Kravcenoka/Graudina - Match Highlights
“It’s amazing, I can’t even describe how I feel,” Stam said after the victory in Rosarito. “I’m so happy and so proud. The results we had this past week show how much we’ve been working and that we trust each other no matter what. We played a lot of three-setters and lost some sets pretty badly, but always kept trusting and fighting.”
Schoon and Stam, who both celebrate their birthdays on October 3, qualified for the Tokyo Games at the ages of 19 and 23 respectively after they helped the Netherlands win the European Continental Cup and defeated Marleen Van Iersel and Pleun Ypma in the match that decided which team would be sent to represent the country in Japan.
They won just one of their four matches at the Games, but their silver medal campaign at the European Championship just a week later reinforced the idea that they had a bright future ahead of them.
And the tournaments in Mexico confirmed that.
In Tlaxcala, the Dutch entered the tournament seeded fifth and had a perfect run until the gold medal match, when they were stopped by Brazilian veterans Barbara Seixas and Carol Salgado and had to settle for silver.
Their path to the final was considerably more complicated in Rosarito. Besides having to start their campaign from the qualifier, the Dutch also lost a pool play match that put top-seeded Brazilians Eduarda ‘Duda’ Lisboa and Ana Patricia Ramos in the quarterfinals.
In the span of 11 days, however, the Dutch won 12 of their 14 matches and played in a whopping 34 sets. Most impressively, they defeated one Olympic champion, four Olympic medallists and 11 Olympians, showing they are exactly where they belong.
“We didn’t expect it at all,” Stam commented. “We came here and had to play in completely different circumstances (to Tlaxcala). We had to adapt really well and I am proud of how we did it. We’ve been taking it day by day and have not had any rest in the last two weeks, but we just kept going.”
With the retirement of veterans Madelein Meppelink and Sanne Keizer, the young Dutch pair are already the top women’s team in their country. They leave Mexico ranked 2nd in the world and are just getting started.