Lena Plesiutschnig and Katharina Schutzenhofer headed to Mexico for the three FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour 4-star events of the Cancun Hub knowing they needed strong results to keep their dream of representing Austria at the Tokyo Olympics alive.
The 17th-place finish they got in the first tournament didn’t help their cause that much but the Austrians are in a much better position in the second event after they won three matches on Saturday to advance to the quarterfinals at the Playa Delfines.
The Austrians completed pool play with a setback as they lost to China’s Fan Wang and Xinyi Xia 2-0 (21-15, 21-17) but didn’t take long to bounce back as they won a pair of elimination matches to advance in the tournament.
The Europeans prevailed 2-0 (21-16, 21-16) against Japan’s Miki Ishii and Megumi Murakami and followed that up with a 2-1 (23-21, 19-21, 16-14) victory against Dutch qualifiers Katja Stam and Raisa Schoon, who were undefeated in the event so far.
Their quarterfinal opponents will be Brazilians Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda ‘Duda’ Lisboa, who eliminated the winners of the first tournament in Cancun, compatriots Talita Antunes and Taiana Lima, with a 2-1 (15-21, 21-19, 15-10) victory.
“We’re so happy,” the 27-year-old Plesiutschnig summarised after the match. “We were a little frustrated because we had our chances to win the second set but didn’t take advantage of them, but we kept fighting for every point until the end. We’re exhausted after three matches, but we’re also excited to play tomorrow and will get on the court and fight some more.”
Guaranteed at least a fifth-place in Cancun, the Austrians have already secured their best finish in the Olympic qualification period this week. They’re still outside the top 15 teams that will qualify for Tokyo via the Olympic rankings, but their great campaign in Cancun has already been good enough to keep their dreams alive.
“We know we’re still quite a few points behind, so it won’t be easy,” Plesiutschnig added. “We’ll still need good results in the next tournaments to have a chance, but it’s certainly great that we improved our odds already.”
Another quarterfinal matchup of the Cancun event will feature Dutch Sanne Keizer and Madelein Meppelink, who eliminated Czechs Marketa Slukova and Barbora Hermmanova with a 2-0 (21-16, 21-18) win, and Americans Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil, who ousted Switzerland’s Nina Betschart and Tanja Huberli also in two sets (21-16, 21-13).
Germans Karla Borger and Julia Sude knocked reigning world champions and world ranking leaders Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes of Canada out of the tournament with a 2-0 (21-14, 21-15) win. They will now play Russians Nadezda Makroguzova and Svetlana Kholomina, who defeated their compatriots Victoria Bieneck and Isabel Schneider also in two sets (21-11, 21-18).
China's Fan Wang and Xinyi Xia are also among the top eight teams of the event after they defeated Americans Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat 2-0 (21-18, 21-18). They will play against the winners of last month's 4-star Katara Cup, USA's April Ross and Alix Klineman, who posted a 2-1 (19-21, 21-11, 15-11) victory over Australians Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar.
Elimination matches in Cancun are streamed live on the Beach Volleyball World Youtube channel. Subscribe, log in and set reminders to receive notifications when streams begin.
Cancun Hub - 2nd event
Cancun Hub - 2nd event - Match schedule
Provisional Olympic ranking - Men
Provisional Olympic ranking - Women
FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour