Spain’s Liliana Fernаndez and Elsa Baquerizo and Cuba’s Lidy Echeverria and Leila Martinez claimed the last two available spots in the round of 16 at the Tokyo 2020 women’s Olympic beach volleyball tournament after winning the lucky-loser playoffs between teams that finished third in their pools.

Liliana & Elsa left no doubts over their superiority in the match against Miki Ishii and Megumi Murakami and knocked the Japanese pair out of contention with an emphatic 2-0 (21-15, 21-10) shutout. The Spaniards will have to face world champions Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes of Canada in a round of 16 fixture on Monday.

“The last two matches weren’t our best, we were kind of struggling with our game and we knew we had to come out strong against the Japanese, because they are a good team and they are playing at home. So we had to do our best. I think we played much better than on other days and that makes me proud of my team,” Elsa told Volleyball World. “Pavan and Melissa are obviously one of the favourite teams in this tournament. They are the world champs. They are very stable on the Tour. So we know it’s going to be a tough match and we are going to have to give our best to beat them. We’ll try to come out strong and do that.”

“We just needed to focus on our game. We know how to play. We know how to make it work on the court. It just wasn’t happening,” Liliana added. “So we really pushed today, because we knew it was going to be a hard match against a team of fighters.”

Lidy Echeverria ready to play

Lidy Echeverria ready to play

Later on Saturday, Lidy and Leila also mastered a straight-set victory over the young Dutch pair of Katja Stam and Raisa Schoon. The Cubans were in control of the scoreboard for most of the game and in the end they celebrated with a 2-0 (21-17, 21-17) win. On Monday morning, Lidy and Leila will challenge USA’s April Ross and Alix Klineman for a spot in the quarterfinals.

“I feel super happy, because we had a very rough start in the tournament, but we are in good shape now and we go forward in the competition. We are thankful to God for this victory,” Leila Martinez said. “Our block-defence system worked well for us. We had some troubles in serving, but we were able to get the important points towards the ends of the sets. We have confidence in our abilities and in the volleyball we can play. We have nothing to lose, so we will always go out on the sand to win the game.”

All round of 16 fixtures on August 1 (* to be played on August 2):

* Sarah Pavan & Melissa Humana-Paredes (CAN) v Liliana Fernаndez & Elsa Baquerizo (ESP)

Mariafe Artacho & Taliqua Clancy (AUS) v Chen Xue & Xinxin Wang (CHN)

Nadezda Makroguzova & Svetlana Kholomina (ROC) v Tina Graudina & Anastasija Kravcenoka (LAT)

Heather Bansley & Brandie Wilkerson (CAN) v Kelly Claes & Sarah Sponcil (USA)

Fan Wang & Xinyi Xia (CHN) v Ana Patricia Ramos & Rebecca Cavalcanti (BRA)

Anouk Verge-Depre & Joana Heidrich (SUI) v Tanja Huberli & Nina Betschart (SUI)

Laura Ludwig & Margareta Kozuch (GER) v Agatha Bednarczuk & Eduarda Santos Lisboa (BRA)

* Lidy Echeverria & Leila Martinez (CUB) v April Ross & Alix Klineman (USA)