Pairs from eight different countries claimed the eight main draw vacancies available through Monday’s women’s qualifications at the Katara Beach Volleyball Cup. Despite all the necessary anti-pandemic measures taken at Doha’s Al Gharrafa Sports Complex, including the absence of spectators, there was a general feeling of excitement among the players, happy to be finally back on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour.
The young Swiss duo of Esmee Bobner and Zoe Verge-Depre (21 and 23 years old, respectively) advanced to their first ever main draw at a 4-star tournament. They were one of only two teams who managed to win two games on Monday and, despite being seeded next-to-last in the qualification bracket, they almost made it look easy, while cruising through two straight-set victories – 2-0 (21-17, 21-11) over Denmark’s Cecilie Kollner Olsen and Sofia Norager Bisgaard and 2-0 (21-11, 21-16) over third-seeded Takemi Nishibori and Sayaka Mizoe of Japan.
“It feels really good, especially after such a long time without FIVB tournaments. It feels really good, after so much hard work, to get this reward,” said Zoe Verge-Depre. “We are ready to compete and romp some more in the main draw. We’ll see what pool we are in, but we want to play our game, have fun and enjoy the main draw. Our goal for the season is to qualify for more main draws like this and our long-term goal is to qualify for the Olympics in 2024.”
“We had the whole last year to practise. We had fewer competitions, but more time for training, and I think we made good progress. It’s cool to see it in an actual game and not just in practice. We want to be fearless and play good volleyball in the main draw.”
Five of the eight second-round qualification matches were resolved in tie-breakers. In one of the most exciting three-setters of the day, top-seeded Americans Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil narrowly escaped elimination after denying a second-set match point for their Dutch opponents Katja Stam and Raisa Schoon. Mounting an incredible comeback, Claes and Sponcil advanced to the main draw with a 2-1 (19-21, 22-20, 15-12) victory.
Norway’s Sunniva Helland-Hansen and Ingrid Lunde were also close to a complete comeback from a set down in their deciding match against Sarah Schneider and Leonie Kortzinger, but the second-seeded Germans persevered through the nail-biting epilogue to celebrate a 2-1 (21-17, 21-23, 16-14) win.
Brazil’s Taina Silva Bigi and Victoria Lopes Pereira Tosta, Russia’s Mariia Bocharova and Aleksandra Ganenko, Finland’s Riikka Lehtonen and Niina Ahtiainen, France’s Lezana Placette and Alexia Richard and Greece’s Vasiliki Arvaniti and Panagiota Karagkouni were the other five pairs who successfully made their way from the qualification battles to Tuesday’s main draw.
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