The opening day of women’s competition at the 2015 CEV U22 Beach Volleyball European Championship confirmed the status and credentials of the top-seeded teams. However, it also showed that they must bring their A-game in order to finish atop the charts once the competition comes to a close this coming Sunday, August 30.

At Praia da Ribeira of Albufeira do Azibo in Macedo de Cavaleiros, the reigning European champions, Jagoda Gruszczynska and Karolina Baran from Poland, were caught by surprise (15-21) in the opening set of their matchup with Russia’s Svetlana Kholomina and Ekaterina Makroguzova, but after that initial setback the gold medallists from Fethiye 2014 were able to stand the challenge and to claim a hard-fought 2-1 victory (21-15 and 15-8). In their second match, the golden girls from Poland comfortably edged England’s outsiders Eleanor Cranch/Millie Constable by 2:0 (21-11, 21-9).

Their countrywomen and last year’s silver medallists Katarzyna Kociolek/Dorota Strag entered the competition showing they are willing to take the limelight away from their friends, as they stamped an easy win over Serbia’s Katarina Zivkovic and Tijana Basic (21-8, 21-9) and they did not drop a set also in their second matchup with Katerina Valkova and Nicole Dostalova of the Czech Republic (21-14, 21-10).

The pairs Vanessa Paquete/Margarida Vasques (POR), Alise Lece/Marta Ozolina (LAT), Gruszczynska/Baran (POL), Nina Betschart/Nicole Eiholzer (SUI), Merve Nezir/Esra Betul Cetin (TUR), Kociolek/Strag (POL), Sandra Ittlinger/Lena Ottens (GER) and Aline Chamereau/Ophélie Lusson (FRA) all recorded two victories on the opening day of pool play.

The men’s competition is set to start on Thursday with Norway’s standouts Christian Sandlie Sørum and Runar Torsvik Sannarnes hoping to repeat their gold medal performance from last year in Turkey. Among those who are hoping to take the spotlight away from the Norwegian tandem are Germany’s Niklas Rudolf and Clemens Wickler, last year’s U20 European champions, Poland’s Michal Bryl and Kacper Kujawiak, who are the reigning U21 world champions, along with the Spanish tandem Alejandro Huerta Pastor and Óscar Jiménez Gutiérrez, who finished second at last year’s FIVB U17 World Championship in Acapulco, Mexico.


Home heroines Paquete/Vasques leave their mark in Macedo de Cavaleiros

Macedo de Cavaleiros, Portugal, August 26, 2015. Portugal’s Vanessa Paquete, 20, and the only 16-year old Margarida Vasques started on Wednesday their home campaign at the 2015 CEV U22 Beach Volleyball European Championship in Macedo de Cavaleiros on a high note and after scoring two consecutive wins they have been picked as the ones who will carry the host country’s dreams of glory in this competition.

Vanessa Paquete and Margarida Vasques started their adventure beating Norway’s Live Lunde and Sunniva Helland-Hansen by 2-0 (21-10, 22-20) in the opening match of this year’s tournament, and after that they followed up with another win, this time over the Slovenian duo Spela Morgan/Pija Stegel, and they did so without dropping any set as well (21-18, 21-14).

Paquete and Vasques will take centre stage on Thursday as the leadership of Pool A will be at stake. Despite having already clinched a spot in the next round, the Portuguese team will face Latvia’s Alise Lece and Marta Ozolina, who are also undefeated in this competition, for the top position of their group, which would provide the home heroines with a ‘bye’ for the first elimination round.

“It was a great day, we played very well and entered the first match highly concentrated and focussed on the service and the side-out. In the second set we got to see a reaction from the Norwegian team but we kept the pressure high and this way we closed the match,” says Margarida Vasques adding: “In the second match we stuck to our game plan and that eventually paid off. We finished the day with great results.”

“Latvia also registered two wins and we are aware of their quality. Now we need to rest and study our next opponents”, says partner Vanessa Paquete. “Tomorrow is a new day and we know that we have already clinched a place in the next round, so we are going for the leadership which would then give us a 9th place in the final standing according to the worst-case scenario,” she concludes.