Russia’s Artem Yarzutkin and Oleg Stoyanovskiy, the gold medallists from last year’s Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, quite surprisingly lost their first match in pool play on the opening day of the men’s competition at the 2015 CEV U22 Beach Volleyball European Championship in Macedo de Cavaleiros, Portugal. Their nemesis is Germany’s tandem Yannick Harms/Mirko Schneider who cruised to a 21-10, 20-22, 15-9 victory to upset their pre-favourite opponents.

As for last year’s U22 European champions, Norway’s Christian Sandlie Sørum and Runar Torsvik Sannarnes, they look determined to defend the title they won in Fethiye, Turkey back in September 2014 and on Thursday recorded two consecutive victories without dropping a set in their matches with Poland’s Maciej Kaszewiak/Mateusz Paszkowski (21-12, 21-16) and Finland’s Veli Manninen/Marko Määttänen (21-15, 21-16).

Another serious contender for the medals is Poland’s second duo Michal Bryl/Kacper Kujawiak. The gold medallists from last year’s U21 World Championship in Larnaka also started their quest for yet another accolade in a perfect way edging first Austria’s Lukas Peter Stranger/Benedikt Kattner (21-14, 21-10) and after that also Dutchmen Jannes van der Ham/Ruben Penninga (21-18, 21-19).

Michal Bryl said at the end of a positive first competition day in Macedo de Cavaleiros: “This is only the group stage but we want to finish first in the pool so we can’t afford to play bad. We usually have good results in this kind of tournaments, and our objective is to win a medal, gold if possible, but every match will be difficult, and as far as the competition goes, the Russians and both teams from Germany will be tough opponents. We already know them from other tournaments, and therefore we are aware of their quality. This is the last age-group category where we get to compete so we want to be the best.” Regarding the conditions at the venue of the championship, Bryl said: “The location is very nice, the courts are good and the food is great. We only have to worry about the wind that sometimes makes its appearance.”

Germany’s Niklas Rudolf and Clemens Wickler, last year’s U20 European champions, have also set their sight on the ‘throne’ in this age group as well. They started their campaign in the best way stamping a 21-19, 21-14 win in their opening match with Russia’s Igor Velichko/Maxim Sivolap.

France’s Romain Di Giantommaso and Maxime Thiercy – who last year claimed bronze at the U21 World Championship in Larnaka – also had an excellent opening day of their campaign on Portuguese sand. They first downed Belgium’s Martijn Verspecht/Kwinten Luyckx 21-12, 21-11 and after that they stamped a 21-17, 21-17 win over home heroes Francisco Pombeiro/Jose Jardim, so the Frenchmen are also among those to watch out for in the race for the medals.

Diogo Maia (pictured) and Tomás Silva carry Portugal’s hopes in the competition as they were the only team from the host country to record a victory on Thursday. They did so at the end of a close and dramatic match with England’s Robert Poole/Issa Batrane (21-23, 22-20, 15-13) which lasted for 59 minutes and drew a lot of support from the fans in attendance.

The actions will continue Friday with the last pool play matches whilst the women will embark on the elimination phase and the eventual losers will have to pack their bags and travel back home.


2014 gold medallists Gruszczynska/Baran continue quest for second U22 crown

The women’s competition at the 2015 CEV U22 Beach Volleyball European Championship in Macedo de Cavaleiros is set to continue on Friday with the first and second round of the elimination stage and with a set of matches that are supposed to be electrifying, judging by the commitment shown by the teams still in contention for continental honours. They indeed all look eager to go for more victories and are determined to get their own share of glory on the international stage.

As they recorded three straight victories in their pool, the reigning champions Jagoda Gruszczynska and Karolina Baran of Poland (pictured) will by-pass the first round of elimination and will be waiting to play the winners of the match between Austria’s Julia Radl/Nadine Strauss, who finished second in Pool F, and the bronze medallists from last year’s U18 European Championship, Finland’s Ida Sinisalo/Niina Ahtiainen.

Russia’s Ksenia Dabizha/Nadezhda Makroguzova haven’t dropped a single set so far in the competition and are also waiting for their next opponent in Round 2, which could be their well-known countrywomen Svetlana Kholomina/Ekaterina Makroguzova or Romania’s Adriana Melniciuc/Adelina Budai-Ungureanu.

Germany’s Lisa Arnholdt/Nadja Glenzke imposed their rule in Pool F and will be playing in the next round the eventual winners of the Iberian derby starring Portugal’s Vanessa Paquete/Margarida Vasques and Spain’s Aida Etxebarría/Nerea Izagirre. These teams know each other very well from previous WEVZA tournaments so their matchup promises to be an interesting and exciting tie.

Last year’s U20 European champions Nina Betschart and Nicole Eiholzer of Switzerland also look in excellent form and full of confidence. The gold medallists from the Baku 2015 European Games are now waiting for the result of the match between Czech Republic’s Katerina Valkova/Nicole Dostalova and Italy’s Monica Lestini/Agata Zuccarelli to know the name of their next opponent in Round 2 of the elimination phase.

2014 U22 European silver medallists Katarzyna Kociolek and Dorota Strag of Poland also extended their winning streak to three matches in a row on Thursday even though they lost the first set in their clash with Switzerland’s Dunja Gerson/Laura Caluori (18-21, 21-14, 15-8). They now wait for the game starring France’s Aline Chamereau/Ophélie Lusson versus Czech Republic’s Marketa Bendikova/Magdalena Dostalova to know the name of their next rival on the road to the final stages of the competition.

Germany’s Sandra Ittlinger/Lena Ottens also topped the charts of their Pool and will be crossing the ways of the eventual winners of another interesting matchup between Spela Morgan/Pija Stegel of Slovenia and Belarus’s Viktoryia Shalayeuskaya/Viktoryia Siakretava.

As for Lithuania’s ‘golden girls’, Monika Povilaityte and Ieva Dumbauskaite, they also got a bye in the first elimination round after finishing first in their pool and now wait to see the result of the game between Julia Wouters/Lauri Luijken of The Netherlands and Iceland’s Elisabet Einarsdottir/Berglind Gigja Jonsdottir, who earlier this season claimed gold at the Games of the Small States of Europe (GSSE) in Reykjavik.

Latvia’s Alise Lece/Marta Ozolina have already turned into one of the main sensations of the tournament with their three straight wins in Pool A. On Thursday they upset the local fans edging Portugal’s Vanessa Paquete/Margarida Vasques (21-16, 21-15) to claim first place in the pool and move on straight to Round 2 where they will lock horns with Switzerland’s Gerson/Caluori or Turkey’s Merve Nezir/Esra Betul Cetin.