Sara Hughes and Kelly Cheng are the first-ever Beach Pro Tour champions! Shortly after reuniting as a team some three months ago, the two 27-year-old Americans won gold at their first AVP Tour event together and followed up with trophies at their first two appearances on the Beach Pro Tour, November’s Challenge and Elite16 events in Torquay. They received a wild card to compete at the season Finals in Doha and made it pay off! Hughes and Cheng climbed to the top of the historic podium, which means they have already won four high-level tournaments in a row since teaming up.
Wild cards Hughes & Cheng claim historic Beach Pro Tour title
Duda & Ana Patricia take silver, Stam & Schoon snatch bronze at the Finals in Doha
Pubblicato 06:24, 29 Jan 2023
Reigning world champions and world’s top-ranked team Eduarda Santos Lisboa (Duda) and Ana Patricia Ramos of Brazil settled for silver. During the season, they won gold at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship in Rome, at the Gstaad Elite16 and the Uberlandia Elite16, as well as Elite16 bronze medals in Jurmala, Paris and Cape Town. Now they added a Doha Finals silver to their record.
Third-seeded Katja Stam and Raisa Schoon of the Netherlands celebrated a bronze-medal finish. It was their fifth podium on the Beach Pro Tour after their gold medals at the Rosarito Elite16 and the Paris Elite16 and their silver medals at the Tlaxclala Challenge and the Itapema Challenge.
Sunday’s gold medal match started better for ninth-seeded Hughes and Cheng. They quickly built up a four-point lead, which Duda and Ana Patricia just as quickly wiped out. For a short while, the Brazilians even stepped in front, but the Americans regained control in the money time of the first set to claim it after two consecutive swings by Hughes, for the set point and for the set winner. They broke away with an early 3-0 lead in the second set and then just kept pace until Hughes again shaped up the final 2-0 (21-18, 21-16) with a successful spike. Cheng and Duda shared the top scorer honours of the final with 20 points apiece.
“Kelly and I are so happy! That was just such an amazing finish!” Hughes exclaimed after the last whistle. “I am so proud of her! She was absolutely perfect and I think we are very steady as a team. We are so excited to come out with a win, and we are also looking forward to next week.”
“I am speechless right now. I’m really proud of our team,” Cheng added. “We have another tournament next week, so we are probably going to get some ice cream from the mall and then sleep for like 12 hours tonight. We’ll sleep and recover as best as we can and then get out and fight next week.”
Stam and Schoon secured their spot on the podium with a 2-0 (21-18, 21-10) shut out of Australia’s Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho Del Solar in the bronze medal match. The first set was quite competitive through 10-10, after which the Dutch started pulling away to win the set with Stam staying well in control at the net. The second set was a one-sided affair. The Dutch stormed in on a 5-0 run and never looked back. With Stam keeping the kill blocks coming in and Schoon contributing plenty of points in attack and from the serving line, they extended the gap to 11 points for a speedy win. Stam led the scorers with 18 points, including five stuffs and two aces. Schoon chipped in four aces towards a 13-point total.
Both semifinals earlier on Sunday offered exciting three-set turnarounds.
First, Duda and Ana Patricia managed to come back from a set down against Clancy and Mariafe to take a 2-1 (15-21, 21-12, 15-11) victory, with a 25-point contribution from Ana Patricia, including four blocks and an ace. Clancy was the best scorer of the match with 26 points. However, her team’s abundant mistakes handed the win to the opponents.
Stam and Schoon won a hard-fought first set against Hughes and Cheng deep in the overtime. The Americans caught up winning the second by the narrowest of margins. The tie-breaker went level through 7-7, when Hughes and Cheng broke away with three in a row and cruised on to a 2-1 (24-26, 21-19, 15-10) win. Cheng was on fire in attack and delivered the match high of 30 points, including two kill blocks.