Heidrich and Verge-Depre complete their flawless pool play campaign in Rome

Tokyo Olympic bronze medallists Joana Heidrich and Anouk Verge-Depre are among the first six pool winners in the women’s tournament at the Beach Volleyball World Championships Rome 2022 after the Swiss won their third-straight match at the Foro Italico on Sunday.

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Partners at a World Championship for the third time in their careers (they were ninth in Vienna 2017 and Hamburg 2019), the 30-year-old Swiss were in impeccable form in the first three days of the event, winning all their three Pool C matches in straight sets to finish first and make it to the Round of 32 with a perfect record.

Ranked seventh in the FIVB World Rankings, Heidrich and Verge-Depre defeated Latvians Tina Graudina and Anastasija Kravcenoka 2-0 (21-19, 21-13) on Sunday in a rematch of last year’s Tokyo Olympics bronze medal match.

“We really wanted to win the pool so we had the best possible bracket for the elimination round,” Verge-Depre commented. “We know them really well as we’ve played them many times and even practised with them in the past, so we were able to come up with a very specific strategy. We didn’t start very well, but it was like a wake-up call, and all in all, it was a good match. Playing against an opponent of their level will certainly help us prepare for the next round.”


Graudina and Heidrich battle at the net

Targeted by most of the Latvian serves, Heidrich was in excellent form, producing 17 points in kills and adding four blocks and one ace. Verge-Depre registered nine points, all in kills.

The victory extended the series of positive results the Swiss have obtained against the Latvians over the last three years. Heidrich and Verge-Depre have won all four encounters with Graudina and Kravcenoka so far, with the first dating back to September 2019, at the FIVB World Tour Finals, also in Rome, and dropped just one set against their opponents in these matches.

“It’s hard to explain why we’ve been so successful against them, but I like playing them, especially because I know it will be a match in which I’ll have to side out well,” Heidrich added. “I think when you get to win consecutive matches against the same team, it might get in their minds a little bit. I didn’t start the match well and it was hard to find my rhythm and adjust to the physical blocker that Tina is, after playing shorter teams in our first matches. I’m just happy that we won.”

World ranking leaders Katja Stam and Raisa Schoon of the Netherlands were the winners in Pool A. As with the Swiss, the Dutch also won their three matches in straight sets, including the last one, on Sunday, a two-set (22-20, 21-10) win over Argentinean Olympians Ana Gallay and Fernanda Pereyra.

Brazilians Eduarda ‘Duda’ Lisboa and Ana Patricia Ramos topped Pool B with three victories. The winners of the 2014 Youth Olympic Games followed up Saturday’s hard-fought win over Austrians Lena Plesiutschnig and Katharina Schutzenhofer with a more comfortable, two-set (21-12, 21-19) triumph against Czechs Barbora Hermannova and Martina Williams on Sunday.

In Pool D, twins Megan and Nicole McNamara pulled an upset to finish top. The 24-year-old Canadians emerged victorious in a dramatic three-set (16-21, 21-19, 15-13) battle against Brazilian veterans Carolina Salgado and Barbara Seixas to remain undefeated in pool play.


Nicole McNamara digs during the match against the Brazilians

Pool E also had Canadian winners as Tokyo Olympian Brandie Wilkerson and new partner Sophie Bukovec secured the top spot. The two ended the opening stage of the tournament in Rome undefeated after their two-set (21-19, 21-19) victory against Americans Kelly Cheng and Betsi Flint.

Despite dropping their opening match in Rome, Sara Hughes and Kelley Kolinske still finished on top of Pool F. After their straight-set (21-13, 21-14) win over Maria Carro and Angela Lobato, the Americans have placed ahead of the Spanish and of Italians Marta Menegatti and Valentina Gottardi in the group's three-way tie.

Pool play will be completed on Monday, when the final 12 women’s matches will be played and the last six pool winners will be determined. The top two teams in each of the 12 pools and the four best-ranked third-placed duos advance directly to the Round of 32 while the other eight teams that finish third in their pools need to go through the lucky loser round, where four other spots will be in play.