Surviving a pool with the reigning world champions, the current European champions and one of the top German teams would be quite the accomplishment for any beach volleyball team in the world, but Dutch rising stars Katja Stam and Raisa Schoon went above and beyond in the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Elite16 event in Doha.
Stam and Schoon navigate Doha’s Group of Death
The Dutch are in the quarterfinals after a perfect campaign in Pool A
Published 07:50, 03 Feb 2023
The Tokyo Olympians went undefeated in Pool A at the Aspire Park sports complex, secured the top spot in arguably the toughest pool in the tournament and advanced directly to the quarterfinals of the season-opening event of the 2023 Beach Pro Tour season on Friday.
Stam, 24, and Schoon, 21, started the event on the right foot, securing victories against Brazilians Eduarda ‘Duda’ Lisboa and Ana Patricia Ramos and Germans Karla Borger and Sandra Ittlinger on Thursday, but they didn’t slow down in their last pool match on Friday, topping Latvians Tina Graudina and Anastasija Samoilova 2-1 (21-19, 23-25, 15-13).
“I’m so proud that we managed to win our pool, it’s an amazing feeling,” Schoon commented. “We knew we were in a tough pool, but honestly, everyone who makes it to the main draw of an Elite16 event is going to be a difficult opponent, so there’s no other way to advance. We knew that every point would matter and did our best to succeed.”
The Europeans, who took bronze at last week’s 2022 Beach Pro Tour Finals also in Doha, know that a good finish this week in the Qatari capital would be very important as it would get them to start not only the season, but also the Olympic qualification period for the Paris 2024 Games in a good way.
“I feel like we’re still on our way up,” Stam commented. “Not everything is going as we planned but I’m confident that we can do something great here again. Having secured at least a fifth place here in Doha is great, but we want more and will keep on going.”
The other pool winners were Americans Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes, their compatriots Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss and Australians Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho. The four teams occupy the first quarterfinal spots in the event.
The winners of last week’s Beach Pro Tour Finals, Cheng and Hughes have now won their last eight matches. On Friday, the two completed their impeccable campaign in Pool B with an emphatic two-set (21-12, 21-8) win over Brazilians Andressa Cavalcanti and Vitoria Rodrigues.
Kloth and Nuss, who started the tournament in the qualifier, had a day of ups and downs, but managed to rank first in Pool C after they fell to compatriots Terese Cannon and Sarah Sponcil 2-0 (23-21, 21-18) and defeated Germans Cinja Tillmann and Svenja Müller also in two sets (21-18, 21-14).
Clancy and Mariafe had a similar path to clinch the top spot in Pool D. The Tokyo Olympic silver medallists had a strong 2-0 (21-13, 21-18) win over Brazil’s Carol Salgado and Barbara Seixas to start the day and were able to remain at the top even after their straight-set (21-19, 21-16) upset to Czechs Barbora Hermannova and Marie-Sara Stochlova.
Saturday’s match schedule in Doha will begin with the Round of 12, with four duels reuniting the teams that finished in second and third places in their pools. The matchups are Canada’s Sarah Pavan/Sophie Bukovec vs. Duda/Ana Patricia, Hermannova/Stochlova vs. Canada’s Brandie Wilkerson/Melissa Humana-Paredes, Cannon/Sponcil vs. Tina/Anastasija and Carol/Barbara vs. Switzerland’s Nina Brunner/Tanja Hüberli.
The quarterfinals will also be played on Saturday while the semifinals and medal matches will be held on Sunday.