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Nicole Laird & Brittany Kendall with the Satun Futures trophy

Nicole Laird & Brittany Kendall with the Satun Futures trophy

At their first appearance on the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour after reuniting as a pair, Nicole Laird & Brittany Kendall claimed their first gold. The second-seeded Australian women’s team climbed on top of the podium at the Satun Futures in Thailand on Sunday, after losing an amazing 88-point set in the semifinals. In the men’s tournament, Philipp Huster & Simon Pfretzschner came out on top of a three-set all-German final against compatriots Paul Henning & Sven Winter.

Lithuania’s Ieva Vasiliauskaite & Erika Kliokmanaite and Czech qualifiers Valerie Dvornikova & Anna Pospisilova completed the women’s podium, while the men’s bronze went to French qualifiers Samuel Cattet & Olivier Barthelemy.

After cruising through their first three main draw matches in Thailand without losing a set, 30-year-old Rio 2016 Olympian Laird, who had previously medalled on the Beach Pro Tour once, with a silver at the first-ever Futures event last year at home in Coolangatta alongside Phoebe Bell, and 27-year-old Kendall finished their Satun campaign with two three-set matches. Having mastered a 2-0 (21-13, 21-15) shutout of home pair Varapatsorn Radarong & Tanarattha Udomchavee in Saturday’s quarterfinals, the second-seeded Aussies started their semifinal against Dvornikova & Pospisilova on Sunday with a rarely seen epic set that lasted 88 rallies or 46 minutes, which they eventually lost by 45-43. Laird & Kendall then battled back to win the match by 2-1 (43-45, 21-15, 15-10) and advance to the final. They had to come back from a set down in the game for the gold, but did so emphatically to celebrate a 2-1 (12-21, 21-14, 15-9) victory over Vasiliauskaite & Kliokmanaite.

The eighth-seeded Lithuanians had started their main draw campaign with a loss and taken the long way to the final, but made it there after adding three more wins to their victory for the third place in Pool A. They delivered a 2-0 (21-17, 21-16) sweep of fifth-seeded Asami Shiba & Saki Maruyama of Japan in the eighthfinals and followed up with a 2-0 (21-15, 21-18) quarterfinal upset of third-seeded Vanuatuans Majabelle Lawac & Sherysyn Toko. In Sunday’s semifinal, Vasiliauskaite & Kliokmanaite came back from a set down against Indonesia’s Dhita Juliana & Desi Ratnasari to claim a hard-fought narrow 2-1 (16-21, 21-19, 23-21) victory. While for 38-year-old Kliokmanaite, the Satun silver was the second Beach Pro Tour medal, after the Klaipeda Futures gold last June, for her 23-year-old partner, it was the first podium on the Tour.

Dvornikova & Pospisilova’s journey to the podium started from Thursday’s qualifiers. After winning Pool D, 20-year-old Dvornikova and 28-year-old Pospisilova, seeded 13th in the main draw bracket, mastered a 2-0 (21-16, 21-17) quarterfinal win over Indonesia’s Yokebed Eka & Nur Sari. In the bronze medal match, they bounced back from their loss to Laird & Kendall to make it to their first Beach Pro Tour podium with a 2-0 (21-18, 21-19) shutout of Dhita & Desi, another Indonesian team that emerged from Thursday’s qualifiers.

Ninth-seeded Germans Huster & Pfretzschner cruised through the entire tournament to reach the final without dropping a single set in four matches played. After winning Pool A, the two athletes born in 2002, produced a 2-0 (21-17, 21-17) quarterfinal victory over New Zealanders Bradley Fuller & Alani Nicklin and a 2-0 (21-15, 21-16) semifinal win over Dmitriy Yakovlev & Sergey Bogatu of Kazakhstan. In the all-German gold medal match against sixth-seeded Henning & Winter, Huster & Pfretzschner turned the course after losing the first set to claim a 2-1 (18-21, 21-17, 15-13) victory and their first-ever Beach Pro Tour medal as a pair. Previously, Huster had a silver from the 2022 Leuven Futures.

Henning & Winter were almost as convincing on the way to the final. They topped Pool C after two straight-set wins, then squeezed out a hard-fought 2-0 (23-21, 25-23) upset of the top-seeded home pair of Pithak Tipjan & Poravid Taovato in the quarterfinals, and came back from a set down in their semifinal against Cattet & Barthelemy to celebrate a 2-1 (16-21, 21-15, 15-13) turnaround. The Satun silver was 25-year-old Henning and 24-year-old Winter’s first Beach Pro Tour medal.

It was only the second Beach Pro Tour appearance for the pairing of 25-year-old Cattet and 28-year-old Barthelemy, but it brought the duo’s second medal, after their silver at the Hague Futures in December. To enter the Satun main draw, the Frenchmen won two qualification matches on Thursday and, after losing the Pool C final to Henning & Winter, they had to win another two games on the way to the semis – a 2-1 (21-18, 25-27, 15-5) in their eighthfinal against Sweden’s Alexander Annerstedt & Jakob Wijk Tegenrot and a 2-0 (22-20, 21-19) in their quarterfinal against second-seeded Thais Surin Jongklang & Dunwinit Kaewsai. In the battle for the bronze, the 14th-seeded French team had a tough encounter with Yakovlev & Bogatu, but managed to put together a 2-1 (16-21, 21-16, 17-15) victory.