Last week saw the ending of the old 1*-5* system in Itapema, Brazil. (Full results here) It had been cancelled earlier in the year and pushed back due to Corona. Now with many top teams already in their off-season, it allowed some new faces to compete in a 4* event. Talking about new faces‘ recently converted indoor to beach player Taylor Sander made his debut with Taylor Crabb you can watch a quick highlight video from YouTube here.
As I continue on the theme bringing volleyball to the people and turning followers into fans, for this blog article I will be only focusing on the Austrian contingent. For many fans the familiar faces of: Hörl/Leitner, Friedl/Trummer and Huber/Dressler where flying the flag for Austria in the Last 4*. Hörl/Leitner and Friedl/Trummer would start in qualification while Huber/Dressler had enough points to be seeded directly into the main draw.
Qualification Q1 & Q2
Click on the game scores with the hyperlink, to open a new tab that takes you directly to the start of each game via the Beach Volleyball World YouTube livestream.
First up was Friedl/Trummer (AUT) vs Takahashi/Malki (JPN), where two very different styles clashes. The high energy from Austria fighting against the slower more controlled style from the Japanese pairing. After losing the 1st set hard fought, the Austrians decide to stick to what they do best, pushing the tempo of the game that left them in the driving seat at the business end of the 3rd set, coming out on top winning (2-1, 18-21 / 21-19 / 15-10)
Next up in Q1 was Timeout’s own Julian Hörl with his partner Laurenz Leitner (2-0, 21-12 / 24-22). Unfortunately, there was no live-stream for this game but below we can get Julian’s own thoughts on the first match.
Julian describes in the video that a big factor was having to change their service due to the wind. The McKibbin brothers take this a step further in their video about the difference of playing indoors vs on the beach. When talking about serving they come onto Julian’s points regarding wind with more information here.
Moving on into Q2 Friedl/Trummer (AUT) vs Lemelianchyk/Denysenko (UKR). The Klagenfurt boys must have the motto more volleyball, more fun. As they again play all three sets, and coming out on the good side to win what was probably the windiest game of the event. It was really more about taking advantage of being on the good serving side, and doing you best for damage limitation when on the bad side. (2-1, 21-16 / 16-21 / 15-11).
Unfortunately, the run of good Austrian form was about to come to an end for Hörl/Leitner (AUT) vs Bonifazi/Benzi (ITA) losing out (0-2, 10-21 / 14-21). We catch up with Julian again to try to find out why their march towards the main draw was halted abruptly. With both Hörl/Leitner having to settle for 33rd place.
I would also like to give an honourable mention to Labate/Fazari (ITA) who played against Aravena/Drouguett (CHI) in Q1 losing (0-2, 6-21 / 5-21) with the match lasting just 23mins. It was no David vs Goliath, with Aravena/Drouguett the heavy favourite finishing the tournament ranked with a respectable 25th ranking, leaving Labate/Fazari as ranked 41st but still gaining 40 international points. I wish them all the best for their next tournament.
The Main Draw
So Friedl/Trummer (AUT) earn their spot in the main draw (Group F), joining their Klagenfurt training partners Huber/Dressler (AUT) who seeded directly into the main draw in group G.
Sticking with Friedl/Trummer (AUT), they started out against Lupo/Ranghieri (ITA) ultimately losing in what was always going to be a tough game because of the difference of level and experience. However giving a good account of themselves, eventually losing (0-2, 14-21 / 14-21). The Klagenfurt boys pick themselves up and bounce back to winning ways in the 2nd group game vs Stephens/Sarabia (MEX). The Austrians looked like the better team and even getting to show of a more patient, disciplined style of play with some cheeky shots. Winning (2-0, 21-19 / 21-18) allowing them to progress a step further into the last 24.
Huber/Dressler (AUT) finally ready to get their tournament under way. First match vs Huster/Winter (GER), both teams searched for service pressure but not finding it for any extended periods. The tactic seemed to target Huster on reception, as the left hander was more predictable in attack. Although it took the Austrians a while to figure out if they wanted to stop Huster using their block or defence. Final score (2-0, 22-20 / 21-18).
Next up in group G, another German pairing, this time Pretzschner/Sowa (GER). With the wind dying down for the evening game, you could see the service players influencing the game more, none more so than Christoph Dressler winning breaks and putting the Germans under pressure. From this, the Austrians settled into a rhythm and found good points from short shots over the German block. The game went the full distance with Huber/Dressler coming out on top winning (2-1, 21-15 / 19-21 / 15-11) and fixing their place in the last 16.
This brings us back to Friedl/Trummer (AUT) who now face Dziadkou/Piatrushka (BLR) in the round of 24. This was a game of Attack, Attack, Attack. There was not many aces, blocks of even digs but what was on show was a range of attacked balls from side out. Both teams playing a great mix of long sets, short set, overhead sets all mixed together with a great variety of spikes and shots. When some of the rare aces, blocks or digs happened it was enough to swing the momentum of the game. Final score (0-2, 18-21 / 16-21), with Friedl/Trummer (AUT) finishing ranked 17th.
Huber/Dressler (AUT) now into the last 16 get to help avenge their countrymen by getting revenge on Dziadkou/Piatrushka (BLR) (2-0, 21-13 / 21-17). Now building up a head of steam next in their sights was Brinck/Abell (DEN) after a pretty even start, some sparks and passion raised between the teams, Huber/Dressler showed their experience by playing their game but the Danes became a little rattled, making some unforced errors being the difference of the 1st set. In the 2nd set the Danes started quick and it felt like they celebrate every point loudly and show their motivation in an attempt to influence the game. This can for sure pump your team up to play and give everything, but the risk is over-revving and making overly errors as you get swept away in the emotion of it all. A great battle from both teams with the win going to Huber/Dressler (AUT) (2-0, 21-17 / 24-22).
I will leave the commentating of these last two matches to a good friend of mine „Lewie Lett“ from the UK. Who some of you will no doubt recognise from his regular appearances giving his insights for the FIVB both on the beach and indoors regularly. So check out the hyperlinks below to get all the action from the Semi-Finals and small final.
In the semi-finals, Huber/Dressler (AUT) with a tough ask vs George/Andre (BRA). Its never easy to beat Brazilians on home turf, espeically with a packed stadium to give them that extra motivation. So losing (0-2, 12-21 / 18-21) was a great effort. Meaning all that was left for Huber/Dressler (AUT) was arguably the toughest match from a mental and physical standpoint in beach volleyball, the 3rd/4th place play-off (or small final). To be so close to final, yet so far, after giving almost (if not) everything and now having to find it all again in the hope of a taking the last spot on the podium. In their way was Lupo/Ranghieri (ITA) (2-1, 16-21 / 21-19 / 16-14).
And lastly, some words from Julian on how the Austrian players support and celebrate with one another while at events like Itapema. Talking about supporting other teams, next week I take a look into the movers and shakers of the volleyball world, as we talk about new volleyball pairings.