BPT Elite 16 Torquay Women - USAvsUSA-10-2

Kelly Cheng & Sara Hughes celebrate

Sara Hughes and Kelly Cheng will go home with two gold medals from their trip to Torquay. On Saturday, the second-seeded American duo took their place at the top of the women’s podium at the last Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Elite16 event of the year, just six days after lifting the trophy at the last Challenge tournament of the year, which took place at the same Australian venue. The pair of 27-year-old players, whose first period together started some 10 years ago and lasted through early 2018, reunited recently to win their first two Beach Pro Tour events together.

· Watch replays of the matches at the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Elite16 event in Torquay on Volleyball TV.

Another newly formed tandem, that of Julia Scoles and Cheng’s previous partner Betsi Flint, settled for silver. The fifth-seeded Americans made the podium at their very first tournament as a team.

Top-seeded Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho Del Solar gave the Australian fans something to cheer about during the podium ceremony by taking the bronze. It was the second Elite16 bronze for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic silver medallists, after Gstaad. The Aussie pair also have two medals at the Challenge level, an Espinho gold and a Kusadasi silver.

BPT Elite 16 Torquay Presentations-25

The Torquay Elite16 women’s podium

Hughes and Cheng dominated the gold medal match on the way to an emphatic 2-0 (21-17, 21-11) shutout of Flint and Scoles. Cheng produced the match high of 19 points, including five kill blocks and an ace. After 8-8 in the first set of the final, Hughes and Cheng took control of the scoreboard with a series of six consecutive points for 14-8, with Betsi grounding the ball with her attacks and Kelly shining on the block. After 20-13, Flint and Scoles managed to deny as many as four opponent set points to prompt a time-out, but then they just served into the net to hand the set to their opponents at 21-17. The second set was completely one-sided. With Cheng behind the serving line, her team produced a fantastic run of eight points in a row, which put them at a stunning 15-3 lead. Their compatriots tried fighting on, but there was no coming back from that deficit. Finally, at first match point, Hughes forced a free ball with her difficult serve and capitalised on it with an elegant cross-court shot for the 21-11 win.

“It’s been so fun teaming up with Sara again after so long apart. I just love getting on the court with her. I love fighting with her and I am excited for what’s to come,” Tokyo 2020 Olympian Cheng said at the end of the gold medal match.

“I’m just so happy to be here with Kelly,” Hughes added. “I’m so grateful to be back on the court with her. I think we are just going to take these two wins, proudly go home, show off our gold medals and enjoy Christmas with our families, but most importantly, we are going to get back to work, because we’ve got a big year next year.”

Flint & Scoles vs Hughes & Cheng 0-2 (17-21, 11-21): match highlights

Clancy and Mariafe bounced back from a set down to delight the home crowd with a 2-1 (14-21, 21-19, 15-13) victory in the bronze medal game. Clancy topped the scorers’ chart of the match with 27 points, including two blocks and three aces. A 5-0 run right at the beginning of the match, garnished with two Nuss aces in a row, set the tone of the first set. The Aussies tried fighting back, but made far too many unforced errors, which kept them at bay. Two back-to-back points by Kloth, a kill block and an ace, brought in set point at 20-13. A rally later, a serving mistake on the Australians’ side ended the set at 21-14 Nuss and Kloth’s way.

A monster block by Kloth crowned a three-point series that gave the Americans a 5-3 advantage early into the second set. However, two back-to-back aces by Clancy highlighted a five-point run, which put the Aussies in control with an 11-9 lead. Nuss and Kloth mastered another five-point streak to step in front again with a 16-14 edge, but the home team caught up quickly, and then… it was Clancy time. She scored from the serving line for an 18-17 advantage. Then she finished a spectacular rally with a powerful shot for a 20-18 set point, and finally delivered the 21-19 set winner with a strike on two. In the tie-breaker, Clancy and Mariafe recovered from an 8-4 American lead to level it at 9-9 and prompt an exciting ending. They went point for point until Clancy delivered the match point at 14-13 before a Nuss shot went wide to put an end to it all at 15-13 the Aussies’ way.

Clancy & Mariafe vs Nuss & Kloth 2-1 (14-21, 21-19, 15-13): match highlights