Challenge - La Paz, MEX - 2023 - Beach Pro Tour 2023 season - News


Ronja Klinger in action during the La Paz qualifier

The final eight spots in each gender in the main draw of the 2023 Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour La Paz Challenge were filled on Thursday, after 41 qualifier matches were played on the Mexican West Coast.

It wasn’t an easy day for the higher-seeded teams, with only three of the eight women's teams with the most entry points and four of the eight best-positioned men's duos being able to advance to the main draw, and several upsets happening in Mexico.

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Involved in one of the biggest surprises of the day were the Austrian Klinger sisters Ronja, 22, and Dorina, 25. The two, who defeated Ukrainians Tetiana Lazarenko and Diana Lunina in straight sets (21-18, 21-13) in their first match in La Paz, were only the 16th best-seeded team entering the event.

In the second round of the qualifier, they took down top-seeded Swiss Zoé Vergé-Dépré and Esmée Böbner in the tie-breaker (21-19, 20-22, 15-12) and made it to the main draw after failing to advance in the season-opener Doha Elite16 in February.

"We took Doha as more of a preparation for the season and for us, 2023 really starts here in La Paz," Ronja told Volleyball World. "It feels amazing to beat the top-seeded team in the qualifier. We had played them twice last year and didn't manage to win a single set, but we worked really hard this preseason with our new coach (Tiê Santana) to show what we can do and to fulfill our potential. It was a very tough match, but it was also a lot of fun playing on the centre court in front of the fans. I'm very proud of us because we were down three points in the tie-breaker and still were able to control our nerves. We're still in a stage of our careers in which just playing against the top teams and getting more experience is really important, but when we can pair it with good results, that's perfect."


Paraguayans Erika and Michelle downed second-seeded Americans Quiggle and Schermerhorn

The second-seeded team in the La Paz Challenge qualifier, Americans Corine Quiggle and Sarah Schermerhorn also won’t be in the main draw in Mexico. The two got a direct spot into the second round of the qualifier, but were upset by Paraguayans Erika Bobadilla and Michelle Valiente, who produced a 2-0 (22-20, 21-18) victory.

Another American team, the one of Savvy Simo and Toni Rodriguez, was responsible for the elimination of third-seeded Austrians Katharina Schützenhöfer and Lena Plesiutschnig. The 14th-seeded Americans advanced in an empathic way, securing a 21-12, 21-16 win.


Simo and Rodriguez celebrate a point during Thursday's qualifier in La Paz

The other five women’s teams to advance were fourth-seeded Maria Carro/Angela Lobato of Spain, sixth-seeded Victoria Lopes/Tainá Bigi of Brazil, seventh-seeded Xinxin Wang/Lingdi Zhu of China, 12th-seeded Suzuka Hashimoto/Reika Murakami of Japan and 24th-seeded Monika Paulikiene/Aine Raupelyte of Lithuania.

With only four of the eight best-ranked teams managing to advance in the men's qualifier, the top-seeded duo also endured an upset as Swiss Marco Krattiger and Florian Breer fell to 17th-seeded Brazilians Arthur Mariano and Adrielson dos Santos in two sets (24-22, 21-17) in the second round of the qualifier.

Another Brazilian tandem, the one of 24-year-old Felipe Alves and 25-year-old Gabriel Santiago, had arguably an even bigger win in La Paz. Playing in just their second Beach Pro Tour event, the two advanced to the main draw for the first time with a shocking straight-set (21-19, 21-15) triumph over sixth-seeded Latvian veterans Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins, who have five Olympic appearances between them.


Brazil's Gabriel Santiago and partner Felipe Alves staged one of the biggest surprises of the day in La Paz

Also appearing in the La Paz Challenge main draw will be second-seeded Leon Luini/Ruben Penninga of the Netherlands, third-seeded Piotr Kantor/Maciej Rudol of Poland, fourth-seeded Sam Schachter/Dan Dearing of Canada, eighth-seeded Jorge Alayo/Noslen Diaz of Cuba, tenth-seeded Hugo Campos/João Pedrosa of Portugal and 12th-seeded Julien Lyneel/Rémi Bassereau of France.

The main draw begins on Friday, at 9:00 local time (16:00 UTC), and 52 matches are scheduled to take place during the day. The entire pool play schedule will be completed on Friday and only 16 of the 24 teams in each gender will progress for Saturday, when the Round of 16 and the quarterfinals will be held. The semifinals and the medal matches will take place on Sunday.