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

Pavan/McBain (CAN) vs. Savvy/Toni (USA) - Round 2 #5820292

Pavan and McBain pose after their second-round victory in Portugal

Third time was the charm for Sarah Pavan and Molly McBain as the Canadians overcame the qualifier of this week’s Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Challenge tournament in Espinho, Portugal, in their third tournament as partners on Thursday.

Alongside the Canadians, seven other women’s teams and eight men’s duos booked their spots in the main draw of the tournament held at the Praia da Baía, which will begin on Friday with pool play matches.

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Pavan, a 2019 world champion and two-time Olympian, and McBain joined forces last month and didn’t much luck on the qualifiers of the Jurmala Challenge and the Gstaad Elite16, failing to advance on both occasions.

“I’m still very motivated and excited to play,” Pavan said. “Molly and I are looking to obtain the second Olympic spot for Canada. It’s a very new partnership and we’re building it together. We’re taking it one tournament at a time and this is a really big step for us because this is just our third event together. It feels good.”

Pavan/McBain (CAN) vs. Savvy/Toni (USA) - Round 2 #5820295

McBain plays defense against the Americans

Things were different in Espinho on Thursday as the Canadians won a pair of matches to claim one of the eight spots in play in the qualifier. In the first round of the qualifier, Pavan and McBain overcame Spanish Belén Carro and Angela Lobato in straight sets (21-15, 21-14).

In the second round, they had a tougher battle with second-seeded Americans Savvy Simo and Toni Rodriguez, coming from behind to secure a three-set (13-21, 22-20, 15-12) victory that sent them to the main draw.

“I was a little nervous coming here because Sarah couldn’t stop talking about how deep the sand was going to be,” McBain commented. “We got here, we trained for three days and we adjusted to it. The wind wasn’t much of a factor in the centre court too, so the conditions were good.”

Ittlinger/Borger (GER) vs. Taiana Lima/Hegeile (BRA) - Round 2 #5819179

Brazilians Taiana and Hege are among the teams that qualified

Besides Pavan and McBain, also advanced from the Espinho qualifier fellow Canadians Megan and Nicole McNamara, Austria’s Ronja Klinger/Dorina Klinger, Brazil’s Taiana Lima/Hegeile ‘Hege’ Santos, Finland’s Taru Lathi/Niina Athiainen, France's Lézana Placette/Alexia Richard, Spain’s Liliana Fernández/Paula Soria and USA’s Megan Kraft/Emily Stockman.

**Beach Pro Tour Espinho Challenge – Match Schedule and Results**

The men’s qualifier in Espinho featured the return of Olympians Taylor Crabb and Taylor Sander to the Beach Pro Tour after more than two months and it was an eventful one as the Americans had to win a pair of three-setters to advance.


Sander and Crabb won two matches on Thursday in Espinho

In their first match, Crabb and Sander came out on top of a tough duel with Austrians Robin Seidl and Moritz Pristauz, which had two sets going to overtime, winning it 2-1 (39-37, 16-21, 19-17). In the decisive match, the Americans again needed the tie-breaker (18-21, 21-12, 15-9), this time to defeat French Olivier Barthelemy and Samuel Cattet.

“I thought we were playing well in the first set against the French, but we gave up a little bit of a run and they started playing really well,” Sander, a Rio 2016 volleyball Olympic medalist, remarked. “We were doing pretty well on our side out, so we just kept doing it and got some good blocks and digs in the back. Overall our serve was good and put a lot of pressure on them.”

With just 920 points in their Olympic Rankings total as of now, the Americans know they need a good result this week in Espinho to move up and really get in the mix in the fight for a spot at the Paris 2024 Games.

“Qualifying for Paris is our main focus,” Crabb commented. “We need to start putting some good finishes together, but it’s tough when you start on the qualifier and need to work your way into the main draw. But we’re sticking together and we’re going to make a big push for it.”

Argentina’s Nicolas Capogrosso/Tomas Capogrosso, Australia’s Thomas Hughes/Zach Schubert and Chris McHugh/Paul Burnett, Lithuania’s Patrikas Stankevicius/Audrius Knasas, Poland's Piotr Kantor/Jakub Zdybek, Thailand’s Poravid Taovato/Pithak Tipjan and USA’s Trevor Crabb/Theo Brunner took the other seven men's spots in the main draw.

The main phase of the event begins on Friday at the Praia da Baía, with 48 matches set to be played in the four courts, starting at 08:30 local time (07:30 UTC). The elimination rounds will be held on Saturday, with the semifinals and medal matches ending the event on Sunday.

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