World Beach Pro Tour Challenge: American pair outplays Finnish duo

Upcoming Teegan Van Gunst and Kimberly Hildreth of the United States continued their stellar run as other top-ranked bets lived up to expectations on their way to the quarterfinals of the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Challenge women’s division on Saturday, December 2, at the world-class Nuvali Sand Courts in Santa Rosa City, Laguna.

The Americans, ranked No. 80 in the world but came all the way from the qualifiers, stunned world No. 25 Niina Athtiainen and Taru Lahti-Liukkonen of Finland in the Round of 16 with a thrilling 28-30, 21-18, 15-11 reverse sweep to barge into the quarterfinals.

Gunst and Hildreth needed to top the 32-team qualification just to get in the 24-team main draw, where they finished second in the pool play to march on to the next round.

Their win in the main draw included an inspirational 21-15, 21-14 win over home bets Jen Eslapor and Floremel Rodriguez, snowballing their way as the lowest-ranked team in the quarterfinals of the biggest beach volleyball event ever hosted by the country behind the leadership of Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF) president Ramon “Tats” Suzara.

The American pair will face another top team in world No. 13 Taina Silvi Bigi and Victoria Lopes Pereira Tosta of Brazil.

Tiana Silva Bigi and Victoria Lopes of Brazil [photo credit: PNVF]
Tiana Silva Bigi and Victoria Lopes of Brazil [photo credit: PNVF]

The Brazilian tandem made short work of Heather Bansley and Sophie Bukovec of Canada, 21-17, 21-16, in the other Round of 16 pairing to advance.

Other quarterfinal brackets include world No. 14 Anastasija Samoilova and Tina Graudina of Latvia against world No. 18 Terese Cannon and Megan Kraft of the United States, and world No. 21 Daniela Alvarez Mendoza and Tania Moreno Matveeva of Spain against world No. 24 Taravadee Naraphornrapat and Worapeerachayakorn Kongphopsarutawadee of Thailand.

Completing the cast are world No. 29 Sarah Pavan and Molly Macbain of Canada versus world No. 20 Lezana Placette and Alexia Richard of France.

Meanwhile, Eslapor and Rodriguez crashed out of play in Pool F before the Roud of 16 after also bowing to No. 37 Meimei Lin and Jinjin Zeng from China, 21-12, 21-10, late Friday night.

In the men’s division, Ran Abdilla and Jaron Requinton also fell short from advancing after close losses against world No. 53 Samuel Cattet and Oliver Barthelemy of France, 21-18, 21-17, and world No. 43 Pithak Tipjan and Poravid Taovato of Thailand, 21-18, 21-13, in Pool F.

Quarterfinalists in the men’s division are still being determined as of press time in the Round of 16 of the prestigious world beach tourney supported by gold sponsors Ayala Land, Mikasa, Senoh, Philippine Sports Commission, Pinay In Action and Smart as gold sponsors and PLDT, Gatorade, Maynilad, Rebisco, Ayala Malls, Department of Tourism, CBPI, Club Laiya, Foton as bronze sponsors.