The most successful Spanish partnership in women’s beach volleyball history has come to an end. Elsa Baquerizo recently announced her retirement from the sport, while Liliana Fernаndez is in her second pregnancy, but hopes to continue her playing career with a new partner, looking forward to Paris 2024.

Lili and Elsa finished fourth at the 2007 FIVB Beach Volleyball U21 World Championship in Modena, their first international appearance as a team. They have been teammates ever since, except in 2017, when Liliana was pregnant with her first child and Elsa played with different partners. The duo played at three editions of the Olympic Games – London 2012, Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020. They earned seven podiums on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour and eight continental-level medals, including a silver and two bronzes at the CEV European Championships. Lili and Elsa were among the first teams to qualify for the Tokyo Games after winning the 2019 Olympic qualification tournament in Haiyang. They played their last international tournament together at this summer’s Olympic Games, both at the age of 34.

“I’ve enjoyed my entire beach volleyball life and I wouldn’t change it for anything,” Elsa told Volleyball World. “But it’s time to move on and switch to new things, and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store.

“I am retiring because I would like to start a new life, finish my studies, find a job as a teacher for children, have a more tranquil life in Madrid with my husband and just enjoy a different moment in my life. I was supposed to get married last September, in 2020, but I couldn’t because of the pandemic. I got married on September 25 of this year and we went to Mexico for our honeymoon. I am very happy.”

“For me, Elsa is really special," said Lili. "Not just as a player, but also as a person. She is always smiling, positive and happy and I am going to miss her in my daily routine. At the same time, I support her in her decision and wish her all the best. We love each other and really appreciate the 14 years we’ve played together."

“This season was really tough. We expected to do better after the coronavirus break, like in 2019, when we got bronze at the European Championship, had a few quarterfinal finishes and won the ticket to Tokyo. We were happy with our progress with our new coach, Sebastian Menegozzo. This year of delay was very tough. Elsa was already clear that she wanted to do something else after the Olympics, so this extra year of commitment was a big effort for both of us. Everything was kind of crazy. In the end, 2021 was our worst season together I think. For sure, we wanted to finish this partnership much better. We deserved a better end, at least playing at the level we know we can play at. But we didn’t play at that level this year and it was very frustrating.”

Elsa and Liliana celebrate the last win of their international career as a team – over Japan at the Tokyo Olympic

Elsa and Liliana celebrate the last win of their international career as a team – over Japan at the Tokyo Olympic

Recently, Lili found out she was pregnant again, but it did not put a stop to planning her future on the beach volleyball court.

“This happened in the middle of my new sports project. I was looking for a new partner and trying to maintain the structure of the team we had before with Sebastian, but that was not possible in the end, because of my new pregnancy,” she said. “So right now I will focus on my training – on my gym training, on my ball training… Seba is going to help me with that. I have a few months to talk to different players and try to get a team together. I would like to thank my sponsors UCAM, Proyecto FER, Iberdrola, John Smith Sport and Evileye Eyewear, as well as the Spanish Olympic Committee and the Spanish volleyball federation, because all of them are supporting me during this pregnancy. Without them I would have had to retire for sure. I feel really fortunate, because I know a lot of women had bad experiences and lost jobs or sponsors, but there are good people in the world...”