The Nuvali Challenge medallists (source: Volleyball Philippines)

The Nuvali Challenge medallists (source: Volleyball Philippines)

It is quite amazing that Anastasija Samoilova & Tina Graudina have been up there among the world’s top women’s beach volleyball teams for a while, but they had never won gold in a world-level tournament – neither on the FIBV Beach Volleyball World Tour, nor on the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour… Until today that is! The Latvian pair topped the final standings at the Nuvali Challenge in the Philippines on Sunday and added their first gold to the two silvers and one bronze they had won on the Tour before, while Spain’s Daniela Alvarez & Tania Moreno and Brazil’s Taina Bigi & Victoria Lopes completed the women’s podium.

Austria’s Robin Seidl & Moritz Pristauz triumphed in the men’s tournament to claim their second gold and third overall medal on the Beach Pro Tour. Australia’s Thomas Hodges & Zachery Schubert took the silver, and the bronze went to Lithuania’s Patrikas Stankevicius & Audrius Knasas.

· Watch Nuvali Challenge replays on VBTV.

Anastasija & Tina made a masterpiece of a run in Nuvali. Seeded fifth in the women’s main draw, they went through the tournament on a six-game winning streak without dropping a single set along the way, celebrating their first Beach Pro Tour gold and fourth overall podium, after the Rosarito Elite16 and Paris Elite16 silvers in 2022 and the Jurmala Challenge bronze in 2023. In one of Sunday’s semifinals, the two-time European champions achieved a win over top-seeded Taina & Victoria. In the final showdown, they hammered out a shutout of third-seeded Alvarez & Moreno on an 18-point match high from Tina, including four kill blocks and two aces.

Anastasija/Tina vs. Álvarez M/Moreno - Gold Match Highlights | Nuvali 2023 #BeachProTour

“It feels amazing! The whole year we were working so hard, but we did not have the consistent game that we had at this tournament and that was the key,” Anastasija told Volleyball World. “The whole year I would say we were learning so many different new things and in this tournament it all just came together. Our two words for 2023 are ‘harmony’ and ‘consciousness’. They are helping us a lot in the game. If something isn’t going well, I just think of these two words, because I need to find harmony in myself to be in the right spot.”

“It was a long time coming, but we got it. We stayed patient and we found our time,” Tina added. “This year was the year when I needed to learn patience to earn my spot.”

Alvarez & Moreno, on the other hand, celebrated their first-ever Beach Pro Tour silver, after the bronzes they picked up at the Balikesir Futures last year and the Goa Challenge this year. The Spaniards forfeited their Pool C winners match in Nuvali, but after that went on a perfect run of three consecutive straight-set victories towards the final, crowned by a sweep of their semifinal against eighth-seeded Lezana Placette & Alexia Richard of France.

The bronze medal match was also decided in straight sets. Taina & Lopes hammered out a shutout of Placette & Richard to collect their fourth Beach Pro Tour medal, after the Saquarema Challenge silver and the La Paz Challenge and Haikou Challenge bronzes they claimed earlier this year.

Robin Seidl & Moritz Pristauz, who have been playing together since March, achieved their third medal on the Tour, after the La Paz Challenge bronze at their debut and the Goa Challenge gold in October. Their Nuvali campaign consisted of six wins in a row and, only in their quarterfinal match, they allowed a set to the opponents. In Sunday’s semifinals, the third-seeded Austrians downed fifth-seeded Joaquin Bello & Javier Bello of England in a straight-setter, in which Pristauz impressed with six kill blocks. Then, in the big final, they delivered a shutout of second-seeded Hodges & Schubert, with another six stuffs from Pristauz, who also fired a couple of aces to lead the team with a total of 15 points. Seidl added another 13, while Hodges produced a match-high 16 points, including four blocks and an ace, for the Australian pair.

Runners-up Hodges & Schubert improved their Beach Pro Tour collection to seven medals (one gold, three silvers and three bronzes). They reached the Nuvali final on a series of five consecutive wins that peaked with a hard-fought semifinal victory over 13th-seeded Stankevicius & Knasas. In that match, Schubert led the winners with 23 points, but his tally was far from Stankevicius’s match high of 33 points, including six blocks.

In 2022, the Lithuanian duo picked up two gold medals at Futures events, but the Nuvali bronze was their first-ever piece of hardware at the Challenge level. They persevered through a three-set battle in the third-place match to defeat the Bellos by , with Stankevicius putting away another eight kill blocks towards a 23-point match high. Knasas contributed 22 points to this success.