Challenge - Espinho, POR - 2023 - Beach Pro Tour 2023 season - News

Crabb Tr./Brunner (USA) vs. Hörl/Horst (AUT) - Final 1st Place #5857526

Crabb and Brunner celebrate their victory at the Praia da Baía

Theo Brunner and Trevor Crabb maintained the United States at the top of the podium on the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour for another week, following up on Andy Benesh and Miles Partain’s title at last week’s Gstaad Elite16 with one of their own at the Espinho Challenge on Sunday.

The Americans had a long and successful journey in Portugal, which started on Thursday’s qualifier and featured seven wins in eight matches at the Praia da Baía, the last of which against Austrians Alexander Horst and Julian Hörl, who took silver. Brazilians Evandro Gonçalves and Arthur Lanci completed the podium in third place.

  • The Beach Pro Tour Espinho Challenge matches are available on demand on VBTV

Brunner and Crabb lost only one match in Espinho, to compatriots Taylor Crabb (Trevor’s younger brother) and Taylor Sander in pool play, and ended a victorious week in Portugal with a sweep (21-16, 21-17) of Horst and Hörl in the gold medal match.

It’s the first victory for Brunner and Crabb on the Beach Pro Tour since they became partners, at the start of the season. Before their triumph in Portugal, the two had fifth-place finishes in Challenge tournaments in La Paz, Mexico, Saquarema, Brazil, and Jurmala, Latvia, as their best results.

Heading into this week’s Espinho Challenge, the 38-year-old Brunner had just one international victory, secured in 2021, at an FIVB World Tour two-star event in Rubavu, Rwanda. Crabb, 33, had an even longer wait to return to the top of the podium internationally as the most recent of his three World Tour titles had happened in October 2018, in Qinzhou, China.

“It feels great,” Crabb reacted. “For both of us, it had been a while since we had last won an international medal, so we’re going to enjoy this one. It’s been awesome to play here in Espinho.”

Crabb Tr./Brunner (USA) vs. Hörl/Horst (AUT) - Final 1st Place #5857523

Crabb duels with Hörl at the net during the gold medal match

The victory in Espinho, however, indicates things are headed in the right direction for the Americans, who stepped on the top of the podium for the first time as partners exactly one week ago, in an event of the American AVP held in Hermosa Beach.

“We've only been together for six months and we've been working so hard,” Brunner explained. “We had a nice win last week in Hermosa Beach in similar conditions, with deep sand and some wind. We were a little bit nervous about the qualifier here in Espinho, but we made it through. We're super happy, but also exhausted.”

Despite the defeat in the final, Horst and Hörl leave Portugal with their best result on the Beach Pro Tour. Before the Espinho Challenge, the Austrians had taken bronze in Saquarema earlier this year and won Futures tournaments in Klaipeda, Lithuania, and Baden, Austria, in 2022.

Beach Pro Tour Espinho Challenge - Results

BPT2023 - Challenge Espinho - Aearding Ceremony_09

Teams from Austria, the United States and Brazil at the podium in Espinho

Evandro and Arthur gave Brazil their fourth medal this weekend in Espinho following the podium sweep on the women’s event with their three-set (18-21, 21-18, 15-13) victory over Poles Piotr Kantor and Jakub Zdybek in the bronze medal match.

The Brazilians earned their second medals in the season, following their home victory at the Saquarema Challenge, in April. Evandro and Arthur have also made semifinal appearances in the Challenge events in La Paz and Jurmala.

“Winning this medal here in Espinho makes me very, very happy,” Arthur commented. “The fans were amazing, it really felt like we were playing in Brazil. I can only thank the Portuguese people for their support this week.”

From Portugal, the Beach Pro Tour heads to North America for a two-week stay in Canada, the next country to host events in the 2023 season. Next week the competition will take place in the city of Edmonton, which will host a Challenge tournament from July 20-23. One week later, from July 26-30, it will be time for the Montreal Elite16.

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