Espinho, Portugal, July 20, 2019 – Fifth-seeded Nadezda Makroguzova & Svetlana Kholomina won the gold medal at the Espinho four-star stop on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour. For the young Russian pair this is only the second medal on the Tour. The first one, also gold, came at the Anapa one-star one year ago. 22-year-old Makroguzova and 21-year-old Kholomina are also two-time U21 World Championship silver medallists from 2016 and 2017.
Seventh-seeded Americans Kelly Claes & Sarah Sponcil settled for silver, their third World Tour medal so far. 23-year-old Claes and 22-year-old Sponcil already have a silver from the 2019 Hague four-star and bronze from the 2018 Qinzhou three-star
Ana Patricia Silva Ramos (21) & Rebecca Cavalcanti Barbosa Silva (26), currently second in the FIVB World Ranking, claimed the bronze. It is the Brazilian pair’s eighth podium finish on the World Tour. They now have three gold, two silver and three gold medals to their name, all earned on the 2018-2019 edition of the Tour.
The women’s podium at Espinho
Claes & Sponcil started well in the first set of the gold medal match, but their lead did not last long. Playing with more precision, Makroguzova & Kholomina soon took over and built nicely to a 21-17 close. Riding the momentum, the Russians had already opened up a four-point gap halfway through the second set. The Americans did not give up and kept fighting, but were only able to not fall much farther behind – 2-0 (21-17, 21-16) and trophy for Makroguzova & Kholomina.
“We are so happy with this first place!” Nadezda Makroguzova exclaimed. “This is the result of long hours of hard work by our national team coaches, managers, federation and, of course, our family. I want to thank all the people who were on the stands. The fans were really cool!”
“I would like to thank all our coaches and all the other Russian teams. This is our joint victory. I would also like to thank our close ones who came all the way to Portugal to support us. This is indeed a very nice place to play. We liked it very much here. Thank you!” stated Svetlana Kholomina.
“It’s disappointing to come this far and take second. I know we’re a lot better than how we played today,” Kelly Claes pointed out. “That’s frustrating, but we’re just going to keep working on the things we need to work on and keep getting better. The cool thing about our sport is that we have another opportunity next weekend.”
“Yes, it’s pretty disappointing. We didn’t play the way we wanted to,” Sarah Sponcil added. “They did a good job and put the pressure on us. We’re learning from it and moving on...”
The third place match was an all-Brazilian affair between top-seeded Ana Patricia & Rebecca and third-seeded Agatha Bednarczuk & Eduarda Santos Lisboa. None of the two teams fancied the idea of remaining off the podium, so they put on quite a battle for the bronze. A very tight first set was decided in the money time with a clean kill by Ana Patricia for 21-18. 36-year-old Agatha’s experience paid off in several perfectly placed elegant shots, which made the difference in the second set – 21-18 to level the match and prompt a tie-breaker. Ana Patricia & Rebecca stayed more focused throughout the deciding set and reached match point at 14-9. With some fantastic actions on their side, Agatha & Duda denied the first three opportunities for closing the game, but that only delayed the inevitable – a powerful hit by Ana Patricia that put the ball on the sand and fix the final 2-1 (21-18, 18-21, 15-12).
“We are very happy with the bronze medal,” stated Rebecca after the match. “First, because it is a good result. With the intensity of these tournaments, it is very hard and we’re starting to feel it. And then, because we are in the race for the spots in the Olympics and this game was crucial to continue in front of this team from our country. In this game, the environment was fantastic and the public was wonderful.”
Agatha & Duda almost closed a five-point gap in favour of Makroguzova & Kholomina in the first set of the semifinal between the two teams, only to allow the Russians to break away again and close it off with Makroguzova killing it on second touch. At 8-1 to Russia in the second set, it looked as if the victory gods had turned their backs on Brazil. But they hadn’t, at least not completely. Agatha & Duda fought back to catch up at 14-14 and even take over at 16-15, but it was the last time they had the lead in the match. The Russians regained control and Kholomina attacked to call it a match at 2-0 (21-18, 21-18).
Claes & Sponcil dominated the first set of their semifinal and opened a wide gap, which Claes shaped up at the final 21-12 with a monster block. Ana Patricia & Rebecca were in control for the most part of the second set and had a lead as wide as four points, but the Americans kept pace and eventually pushed the race deep into overtime. After denying three set points for the opponents, on the third opportunity of their own to close the set, the US pair celebrated with a 2-0 (21-12, 26-24) victory with Claes acing for the last point.
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