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

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Seeded second, Americans Kloth and Nuss will be among the medal contenders in Mexico

As the second event of the 2023 Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour season, next week’s La Paz Challenge, in Mexico, will have the debut of some new women’s teams, but it will also feature some well-established partnerships that had some success in 2022.

Among the 16 main draw and 32 qualifier duos that will be in action in the Mexican event from March 16-19, as many as 17 have stepped on the podium during the inaugural Beach Pro Tour season, in 2022.

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The Beach Pro Tour La Paz Challenge will have female teams from 21 different countries and from four continents – Asia, Europe, North America and South America. The field also features as many as 11 Olympians.

Among the 2022 medal winners, Americans Sara Hughes and Kelly Cheng are probably the most successful as they won three gold medals, including one at the Beach Pro Tour Finals. Brazilians Talita Antunes and Thamela Coradello are the only other team to have stepped at the top of the podium in an Elite16 event.

Here are five women’s teams who could be medal contenders in La Paz:

Kloth/Nuss (USA)

No team had a fastest rise than Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss in 2022. From starting the season with no entry points and winning their first-ever international event, the Coolangatta Futures, to taking gold at the Kuşadası Challenge and making top-five finishes in six straight Elite16 events, the 25-year-old Americans proved they belong with the best in the sport. The second season always tends to be tougher because teams no longer have the ‘surprise factor’, but Kltoh and Nuss could very well be the exception to the norm because of their incredible potential. They’re the second-seeded team in the La Paz main draw.

Menegatti/Gottardi (Italy)

The 20-year-old Valentina Gottardi first appeared on the international scene in the 2021 FIVB World Tour Finals as a provisory partner for Italian star Marta Menegatti. She passed the test and was taken by the 32-year-old Menegatti, a three-time Olympian who has been using her experience to help Gottardi fully develop her potential. The 2022 season was one for the young blocker to build not only her game, but also her points, and the two did fairly well, winning their first medal at the Challenge level, taking bronze in Agadir, and also getting a top-five finish at the FIVB World Championship. Seeded fourth in La Paz, they now have more experience together and chemistry to aim higher.

Zeng/Lin (China)

Chinese teams were absent from most of the top Beach Pro Tour events held in the first semester of 2022 and used the second part of the year to regain competition form and test new formations ahead of the Paris 2024 qualification period. Meimei Lin, 25, and Jinjin Zeng, 21, were among the players that had the best results as, playing with different partners, they won medals at both the Futures and Challenge levels. That was enough for the country’s national team coaching staff decide to pair the two, who were partners for the first time in 2019, for the 2023 season. In their first event together since their reunion, the Chinese are seeded tenth in the main draw in La Paz.


Lin and Zeng in their first stint as partners, in 2019

Megan McNamara/Nicole McNamara (Canada)

After some years of undeniable progress at the international level, the Canadian McNamara twins Megan and Nicole had a difficult 2022 season for the most part, struggling to make deep runs in most of the events they competed. The two, who play a very dynamic and entertaining style of beach volleyball, had some good moments too, finishing fourth and fifth at the Espinho and Doha Challenges. With a full offseason under their belts and the ability to start 2023 close from home, the 25-year-olds will certainly be looking to begin the year with a strong result, but their first step will be to advance from the qualifier, where they are seeded eighth.

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Grüne/Schulz (Germany)

Two of the most promising young players to emerge in Germany over the last few years, 23-year-old Sarah Schulz and 21-year-old Anna-Lenna Grüne will be together in 2023. The two have relatively limited international experience, but got to learn directly from some of the best players in their countries over the last couple of years, when Schulz played with seasoned defender Chantal Laboureur, with whom she took silver at last year’s Doha Challenge, and Grüne paired with Rio 2016 Olympic champion Kira Walkenhorst in domestic events. The two had a brief, but successful first stint as partners in 2021, winning two FIVB World Tour medals in three events, including gold at the Apeldoorn one-star. They also begin the La Paz Challenge in the qualifier, seeded ninth.


Schulz and Grüne were together last October in a Challenge event in Dubai