Itapema, Brazil - Challenge - Beach Pro Tour 2022 - News


The support of the home fans was key to Andre and George's victory

The fourth stop on the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour - a Challenge event in Itapema, Brazil - came to an end in dramatic fashion on Sunday as an exciting gold medal match at the Meia Praia Beach crowned Brazilians Andre Loyola and George Wanderley.

Played in front of a centre court packed with loud and passionate Brazilian fans, Andre and George had everything going in their favour against Czechs Ondrej Perusic and David Schweiner in the gold medal match. The Brazilians were playing in a city where they have become used to winning, and they also had the unconditional support of the crowd.

The Czechs refused to go down without a fight and took the match to the tie-breaker. Andre and George, who had won the last FIVB World Tour event in Itapema last November, however, got to celebrate another triumph in the city with their 2-1 (19-21, 21-14, 15-12) victory.

· All the matches of the Itapema Challenge are available to watch on Volleyball TV.

The Czechs scored the first two points of the final and used their excellent defensive system to quickly build an 8-4 lead after Perusic converted in transition. A block by Schweiner on George increased their advantage to five points at 10-5. The Brazilians then found their best rhythm during the set, however, and were able to cut the difference between the two teams down to two points with a transition play by George at 15-13 and then to tie the score at 18 points with Andre blocking Schweiner. The Czech blocker got payback two plays later to score 20-18 and then sided out to seal the first set at 21-19.

Schweiner was on fire at the beginning of the next frame, and stopped George scoring the first point of the second set. The Brazilian defender recovered well, however, scoring twice in a row to help his team get to 3-1. A strong serve from Perusic put the duos on an equal footing at seven points each, but Andre got back-to-back block points to get some breathing room for the Brazilians again at 10-7. The home team kept pushing and got close to winning the set when they scored 17-11 by benefiting from a Perusic mistake. Their victory was confirmed when George hit hard from the right to make it 21-14.

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The teams exchanged points at the start of the third and decisive set and the Brazilians first got a two-point lead at 8-6 when George hammered the ball in transition. Andre and George continued to put pressure on the Czechs and an offensive error by Perusic increased their lead to four points at 11-7. The Europeans fought back and cut the Brazilians’ lead to 12-10, but the home team continued siding out until they scored 15-12 to the joy of the fans.

“The level was really high during the entire tournament,” George analysed. “Every match was a battle and to see that we managed to step on the top of the podium at the end makes us very proud. We had never played the Czechs before and I felt like we used the first set to understand their game better. We found our way at the end of that set and then really got into the rhythm we were able to maintain until the end.”


George chases a Czech spike during the gold medal match

The result confirmed Andre’s winning tradition in Itapema. Since the city first hosted a beach volleyball event in 2017, the 27-year-old blocker has competed in the city seven times (including Brazilian Tour and international tournaments) and has won medals on six occasions, including four golds.

“It’s my third international victory here in Itapema and I really have the city as my second home when it comes to volleyball,” he said. “I had goosebumps the first time I played here and I keep having them every time I come back. It's certainly a special tournament for us because of the positive story we have here and every time we come here to play we can't stop smiling because we know we'll have the fans on our side.”


Teams from the Czech Republic, Brazil and the Netherlands stand on the podium in Itapema

Dutchman Leon Luini and Ruben Penninga managed to crown their excellent week of beach volleyball in Brazil with their first medal as partners. The Dutch, who started the tournament in the qualifier on Thursday, were awarded the bronze medals after Estonian defender Kusti Nolvak was forced to forfeit the match alongside partner Mart Tiisaar due to a back injury he sustained during the semifinals.

“This tournament has been absolutely insane for us,” the 21-year-old Luini reflected. “We were the happiest team on Earth just three days ago because we had advanced from the qualifier. After that, we said our goal was to win one match in the main draw, which we did against (Rio 2016 Olympic champion) Alison, a player I admire so much, and from there on things just kept happening. I felt like we improved our game and gained a lot of confidence in every match we played and to have a medal now, it’s unreal.”

The Beach Pro Tour will have a two-week break following the tournament in Itapema and will return with another Challenge event, this time in Doha, Qatar, from May 5-8.