After having the first Challenge tournament of the 2023 season in La Paz, Mexico, the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour goes next to Brazil, where the Itapema Challenge will be played from April 6-9.
New men’s teams to debut at Itapema Challenge
Duos from Brazil, the Netherlands and USA will make their first appearances from April 6-9 – watch on VBTV
Published 12:20, 21 Mar 2023
The men’s tournament in Itapema will have a deep field, with 48 teams entered in the event – 16 of which begin directly in the main draw, with the other 32 having to go through the qualifier. The list includes duos from 22 countries and 24 athletes with Olympic experience under their belts.
The first Beach Pro Tour event held in South America will feature a handful of new teams, with partnerships from host country Brazil, the Netherlands and the United States using the tournament to make their first international appearances.
Here are five teams who will be hitting the sand together for the first time in Brazil:
Van de Velde/Immers (the Netherlands)
This is, by all accounts, only a temporary union as the 28-year-old Steven Van de Velde recently withdrew from the Tepic Elite16 with his regular partner Christiaan Varenhorst. Short-term or not, this should be an exciting team to watch, as 22-year-old Matthew Immers emerged as a top defender in 2022, taking gold at the Agadir Challenge with Stefan Boermans. With Boermans’ regular partner Yorick De Groot recovered from injury, he was left without a teammate in 2023 and then picked up by van de Velde, who will most likely return to his original blocking position. The two are seeded second in the main draw and could surprise anyone if they can find some quick chemistry as partners.
Pedro Solberg/Álvaro Filho (Brazil)
Olympians Pedro Solberg, 36, and Álvaro Filho, 32, are set to compete internationally together for the first time in almost ten years. The two had a brief stint as partners in 2014, winning an FIVB World Tour event in Stare Jablonki in one of their two appearances. While Álvaro had a difficult 2022 season with Evandro Gonçalves, Pedro ended last year on a high, winning medals at the Dubai Challenge (bronze) and Uberlândia Elite16 (silver) with Arthur Lanci. The two, who will begin as the seventh-seeded in the qualifier, recently played in a Brazilian Tour event, finishing fifth.
Former National Basketball Association (NBA) star Chase Budinger, 34, enters 2023 with his fifth different international partner, joining forces with 33-year-old Miles Evans. Budinger had a difficult 2022 Beach Pro Tour season with Troy Field, with their second-place finish in the Sun Island Challenge representing the only top-eight finish for the two. Evans had success at the Futures level, winning golds in Songkhla (with Andy Benesh) and Rhodes (with Logan Webber) and ended the season strong, finishing fourth at the Torquay Elite16 with Paul Lotman. Seeded 15th in the Itapema qualifier, the two had a promising first appearance as partners, finishing second in the American AVP season-opening tournament, in Miami.
Tenacious defender Gustavo ‘Guto’ Carvalhaes will have a new teammate in Itapema after he picked up 22-year-old rookie blocker Heitor Benitto, a Brazilian revelation with no international experience. The two stepped on the podium in their first two events together, taking bronze at both a Brazilian Tour Open tournament and a South American Tour stop. They are seeded 27th in the Itapema Challenge qualifier.
Away from international beach volleyball since last year’s FIVB World Championship, which was held in June, Rio 2016 Olympic champion Alison Cerutti will return in Itapema with a new partner. After playing with Gustavo ‘Guto’ Carvalhaes in 2022, the 37-year-old legendary blocker will now have fellow veteran Oscar Guimarães by his side. Oscar, who's also 37, has played in only four international events over the last three years, but has won a pair of FIVB World Tour events – in Fortaleza, in 2016, with Andre Loyola, and in Manavgat, in 2018, with Luciano Ferreira. Alison and Oscar were fourth in a recent Brazilian Tour event and will begin the Itapema Challenge seeded 29th in the qualifier.