Liliana Fernandez on the block against Desy Poiesz (source:

Liliana Fernandez on the block against Desy Poiesz (source:

Top-seeded Liliana Fernаndez & Paula Soria lived up to the expectations and topped the podium at the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Futures women’s event in Madrid on Sunday, after a perfect run of five straight-set victories. While Paula defended the title she earned with Sofia Gonzalez at last year’s edition of the tournament, this gold medal was the first for three-time Olympian Liliana on the Beach Pro Tour.

36-year-old Liliana and 30-year-old Paula have been competing together since the start of this season, after Liliana came back from maternity leave. The pair’s best result so far was a fifth place at the Saquarema Challenge in April. Playing at the Futures level for the first time as a team, the Spanish duo pleased the home crowd in Madrid with their first Beach Pro Tour podium.

The silver medals went to third-seeded Ukrainians Diana Lunina & Tetiana Lazarenko, while Switzerland’s Muriel Bossart & Shana Zobrist started their Madrid campaign from the qualifiers and made it all the way to the bronze medals.

In Sunday’s final at the Puerta de Hierro Sports Park centre court named after Fernаndez’s previous partner Elsa Baquerizo, Liliana & Paula edged Lunina & Lazarenko to take a 2-0 (21-15, 22-20) victory and the trophy. On the way to the final, they went through a 2-0 (21-13, 21-8) win over Latvia’s Anija Ozolina & Beate Liepajniece and a 2-0 (21-10, 21-10) win over Portugal’s Beatriz Pinheiro & Ines Castro in Pool A, a 2-0 (21-17, 21-15) quarterfinal sweep of compatriots Nazaret Florian & Carolina Fernandez Da Silva, and a 2-0 (21-13, 21-11) semifinal shutout of Netherlands’ Wies Bekhuis & Desy Poiesz, to go through the entire tournament without dropping a single set.

“The atmosphere has been incredible!” exclaimed Liliana, who was also named Most Valuable Player of the tournament. “It's a joy to play at home. The people were super involved in the game, cheering all the time... We clearly dominated in the first set of the final, but in the second they started playing much better. I stagnated there a little bit, but in the end Paula helped us put it away.”

The Madrid silver was also the first Beach Pro Tour medal for the pairing of 30-year-old Diana Lunina and 19-year-old Tetiana Lazarenko, who started playing together this season too. Each of the two Ukrainian players had already picked up a couple of podiums on the Tour with their previous partners.

Before the final, Lunina & Lazarenko lost only a set in Madrid, in their semifinal against Bossart & Zobrist, which they won by 2-1 (16-21, 21-15, 15-11). It was the second time these two pairs met at the tournament, after the Ukrainians had shut out the Swiss in the Pool C final.

17-year-old Bossart and 23-year-old Zobrist had an epic campaign in Madrid. Starting from the first round of Thursday’s qualifiers, they played as many as eight matches, including six tie-breakers, over the four competition days. The two defeats at the hands of the Ukrainians were the only losses the Swiss duo suffered on the way to their first Beach Pro Tour podium. Before losing to Lunina & Lazarenko in the semis, the Swiss duo delivered a 2-1 (1921, 21-19, 15-11) quarterfinal upset of second-seeded Spaniards Belen Carro & Angela Lobato. In the hard-fought third place match, Bossart & Zobrist came back from a set down to celebrate a 2-1 (17-21, 21-19, 16-14) victory over Bekhuis & Poiesz and snatch their first world-level medal.

The double-gender Futures event that was supposed to take place in Cervia, Italy at the same time was postponed because of bad weather conditions.

Madrid Futures: all results