Things can change quickly in beach volleyball and the start of the campaign of Poles Piotr Kantor Maciej Rudol in the 2023 Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour La Paz Challenge is just the most recent evidence of it.
Kantor and Rudol go from qualifiers to pool winners in La Paz
The Poles win their third-straight match in Mexico and make it to the Round of 16
Published 06:28, 18 Mar 2023
If on Thursday the Europeans were one of 28 teams competing in the qualifier in Mexico, they ended Friday, the second day of competition, in a much different position, among the six teams that won their pools in the La Paz Challenge.
Entering just their second year as partners, the 30-year-old Kantor, a two-time Olympian, and the 29-year-old Rudol dominated Pool F as the main draw began in La Paz on Friday.
The Poles started the day with a hard-fought 2-1 (22-20, 32-34, 18-16) win over fellow Europeans Youssef Krou and Arnaud Gauthier-Rat of France and were again pushed hard later, when they overcame Canadians Sam Schachter and Dan Dearing, who also emerged from Thursday’s qualifier, in two close sets (21-18, 26-24).
“It was a very long day and we’re really tired now,” Kantor explained. “We played two very long matches but we’re very happy that we got to win our pool. The first match was really difficult because we had three long sets and it was also played during the day, when it was a lot warmer. The second match was hard too but playing in the evening, with a lower temperature, made it a little bit easier to handle.”
The Poles, who have a fourth-place finish in Espinho last year as their best result in a Challenge event, will now play Americans Trevor Crabb and Theo Brunner in the Round of 16 in La Paz.
“Now we need to get some rest because the playoffs will start on Saturday and it’s going be like a new tournament for us,” Rudol added. “It’s going to be very challenging and we’re really looking forward to the next matches.”
Playing together for the first time in ten months, Dutch Stefan Boermans and Yorick De Groot showed the long time away from each other didn’t take much from their chemistry. The two, who were separated due to a thoracic hernia sustained by De Groot last year, had big wins against strong teams, topping Crabb and Brunner 2-1 (16-21, 21-19, 15-11) and Spanish veterans Pablo Herrera and Adrian Gavira also in three sets (21-12, 21-23, 18-16) to win Pool D. They will now meet Norway's Hendrik Mol/Mathias Berntsen in the Round of 16.
The new team of Austrians Robin Seidl and Moritz Pristauz had a successful start to their partnership, winning their first two matches in La Paz to top Pool B. They survived a tough three-set (14-21, 21-12, 15-11) battle with compatriots Alexander Horst and Julian Hörl in the morning and had a strong two-set (21-14, 21-12) victory over Estonians Mart Tiisaar and Kusti Nõlvak later in the day. In the Round of 16, their opponents will be their compatriots and former partners Martin Ermacora and Philipp Waller.
Also winning their pools in La Paz were Sweden’s David Åhman/Jonathan Hellvig, who will now play France's Julien Lyneel/Rémi Bassereau, Brazil’s Evandro Gonçalves/Arthur Lanci, who are set to face Krou/Gauthier-Rat, and Australia’s Paul Burnett/Chris McHugh, who have Schachter/Dearing as their next opponents.
The remaining two Round of 16 matchups will have Nõlvak/Tiisaar against Australia's Thomas Hodges/Zachary Schubert and Herrera/Gavira versus Cuba's Noslen Diaz/Jorge Alayo.
Besides the Round of 16 matches, which will start at 15:00 local time (22:00 UTC), the La Paz Challenge quarterfinals of the women’s tournament will also be played on Saturday. The semifinals and medal matches will all be held on Sunday.