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

Scoles/Flint (USA) vs. Liliana/Paula (ESP) - Pool C #5828360

Scoles passes during one of the two matches played by the Americans on Friday

A strong pool with four Olympians and two world champions was no obstacle for Betsi Flint and Julia Scoles on the first day of the main draw of the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Espinho Challenge, on Friday.

With two wins and no sets dropped, the Americans were one of six pool winners at the Praia da Baía and advanced to the Round of 16 of the tournament held in Portugal, which will continue on Saturday with the elimination rounds.

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The only team to not contain an Olympian in Pool C, Flint and Scoles started their campaign in Espinho with a solid two-set (21-13, 21-19) victory over Spanish Liliana Fernández, a three-time Olympian, and Paula Soria in the morning.

A few hours later, the Americans returned to the court and were challenged by Brazilian Olympians Ágatha Bednarczuk, a 2015 world champion, and Rebecca Cavalcanti, but managed to secure another 2-0 (21-17, 21-18) victory to finish first in the pool.

“The Brazilians are always tough to play against,” Flint said. “We faced Ágatha and Rebecca at the Gstaad Elite16 event last week, so we knew we could expect a hard match once again. We did what we’ve been practicing and lucky for us, we are now on the next round.”

Agatha/Rebecca (BRA) vs. Scoles/Flint (USA) - Pool C #5832280

Scoles sets during the match against the Brazilians

Playing in Espinho for the first time in their careers, the Americans adjusted well to the windy conditions and the deep sand that are the trademarks of the Portuguese city, which has been hosting international events for nearly 30 years.

“It’s our first time here in Espinho and we’ve heard a lot about the conditions here, especially about the wind and the deep sand,” Scoles explained. “We felt the sand a little similar to the Californian beaches, so it was not that much of a difference or a completely new obstacle for us.”

The fourth Olympian in the pool, 2019 world champion Sarah Pavan and Canadian partner Molly McBain lost to Ágatha and Rebecca in the tie-breaker (13-21, 21-16, 15-11) in the first round of pool play, but bounced back with a two-set (21-19, 21-17) win over Liliana and Paula in their second match and will move forward to the elimination rounds.

Beach Pro Tour Espinho Challenge - Match Schedule and Results

Megan Kraft and Emily Stockman were another American duo to win their pool in Espinho. The two maintained the form they displayed on Thursday’s qualifier and defeated Portugal’s Beatriz Pinheiro/Ines Castro 2-0 (21-11, 21-17) and Spain’s Daniela Álvarez/Tania Moreno 2-1 (21-10, 16-21, 16-14) to finish first in Pool F.

Pinheiro/Castro (POR) vs. Kraft/Stockman (USA) - Pool F #5828850

Kraft and Stockman have now four victories in Espinho

Despite Ágatha and Rebecca’s loss, Brazil still had three other teams at the top of their pools on Friday. Veterans Carol Salgado and Bárbara Seixas were one of them, finishing in first place in Pool A. The South Americans defeated two Italian teams, needing the tie-breaker (17-21, 21-8, 15-13) to overcome Reka Orsi Toth and Giada Bianchi in the morning and just two sets (21-16, 21-15) to dominate Margherita Bianchin and Claudia Scampoli in the afternoon.

In Pool D, Andressa Cavalcanti and Vitoria Rodrigues prevailed over a couple of tough teams to finish first. The Brazilians started the day with a three-set (21-16, 23-25, 17-15) victory over Czechs Barbora Hermannová and Marie-Sara Štochlová and ended it with a sweep (21-16, 21-19) of Chinese Olympians Chen Xue and Xinyi Xia.

Xue/X. Y. Xia (CHN) vs. Andressa/Vitoria (BRA) - Pool D #5830885

Andressa and Vitoria won difficult matches against teams from Czechia and China

Tainá Bigi and Victoria Lopes had a similar path in Pool E. The two had a complicated opening match against Poles Jagoda Gruszczynska and Aleksandra Wachowicz in the morning, pulling off a 2-1 (21-13, 23-25, 15-9) win, and then handled Finnish Taru Lathi and Niina Athiainen in two sets (21-17, 22-20) in their afternoon encounter.

The sixth and last pool winners in Espinho were Megan and Nicole McNamara, the top team in Pool B. The Canadian twins needed two tie-breakers to beat their opponents, but got the job done, overcoming Thais Taravadee Naraphornrapat and Worapeerachayakorn Kongphopsarutawadee 2-1 (21-17, 17-21, 15-11) in their first encounter and French Lézana Placette and Alexia Richard also in three sets (14-21, 21-18, 15-9) in the second one.

At the conclusion of pool play, 18 of the 24 teams that started the main draw remain in contention. Saturday’s scheduled in Espinho will feature the Round of 18, the Round of 16 and the quarterfinals, with the semifinals and medal matches ending the event on Sunday.

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