Boermans de Grott

Boermans and De Groot's victory in Gstaad has cemented them among the elite of the sport

Qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics or not weighed heavily in the balance when beach volleyball teams looked back to evaluate their performances in 2021. That said, Dutch pair Stefan Boermans and Yorick de Groot didn’t compete in the Japanese capital last summer, and it would still be wrong to see any negatives in their accomplishments last year.

The two started the season as the 25th-best-ranked team in the qualifier in Doha and substantially improved their position when they made it into the main draw and finished fifth in back-to-back events in Cancun, Mexico. After advancing in two other tournaments, the 27-year-old Boermans and the 21-year-old de Groot earned an automatic spot in the main draw for the highly-anticipated tournament in Gstaad, the last event before Tokyo.

Boermans De Groot Cancun

A pair of fifth-place finishes in Cancun has pushed the Dutch up in the rankings

Ranked 15th, the Dutch did well in the Swiss Alps, beating world ranking leaders Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan of Qatar twice and the silver medalists of the 2019 World Championship, Germans Julius Thole and Clemens Wickler, once, to win gold. The result propelled the Dutchmen to the fourth place in the world rankings and before the end of the year, they still had enough time to collect silver medals at the European Championship in Vienna.

“We had such a great season last year and that means it will be very hard to get to the same level or do better in 2022,” Boermans told Volleyball World. “We are fortunate to have great training partners in Brouwer/Meeuwsen and Varenhorst/Van de Velde and excellent coaching staff working with us in The Hague. But although we’re part of an outstanding programme, it wouldn’t have happened without our dedication and cooperation. The only thing we can do to enjoy playing beach volleyball and perform at a high level is to keep doing our best every single day.”

Not many people predicted their rapid rise to prominence last year. Before the start of the season, the two combined for just 18 FIVB World Tour appearances among them and had only had success in lower-level tournaments.

With most of the top teams focused on their closest rivals in the Olympic rankings, the Dutch flew under the radar at the start of the season and were able to take advantage of the situation, surprising opponents with their game. That, they acknowledge, is something that won’t happen again on the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour, but they’re already preparing new tricks.

“Being very honest, I think we might have benefited from somewhat of a surprise factor in Cancun,” Boermans reflected. “After that, teams started paying more attention to us. But we earned everything we accomplished, you don’t win beach volleyball matches by luck. We know teams will be watching film on us and analysing our stats, but we’re already working on new things and improving our ‘known’ tendencies. In a certain way, we’re still learning how to play with each other and are improving our setting to expand our range of attacking options.”

Boermans and de Groot were the first to be surprised by their success in 2021. The two didn’t start the year with specific goals and will repeat the strategy in 2022, even though the season will feature arguably the most important tournament of their careers, the World Championship.

“We don’t really set season goals,” he added. “We didn’t last year and won’t this year either. We just try to approach the next tournament as the most important, every match as a final, and do our best. The World Championship will be great and will be the first for both of us. But right now, our minds are focused on the Elite 16 tournament in Rosarito, which will be the first for us.”