24.08.2021 - Vienna, Austria
It’s been almost ten days since Nina Betschart and Tanja Hüberli won the A1 CEV EuroBeachVolley Vienna 2021 presented by Swatch, but we totally understand you if the memories of what was the best edition of event to date do not go away from our mind – we feel just the same.
We’re never done with trying to find ways to recap the tournament once again and relive some of the most special moments we had at the Austrian capital and this time we’ll do it by presenting you five of the most memorable moments the EuroBeachVolley brought to us.
The first match at the Red Bull Beach Arena was always going to be a special one. It not only marked the return of beach volleyball to Vienna after two years (it felt so much longer, didn’t it?) but also introduced the new layout and location of the iconic stadium to players and fans. The venue passed the test, causing goosebumps from the get-go, and saw Dutch veterans Sanne Keizer and Madelein Meppelink, both two-time EuroBeachVolley winners, prevail against young Austrians Eva Pfeffer and Franziska Friedl.
The 2,000 fans that went home disappointed in the very night of the event might disagree, but the victory of Ukrainian twins Inna and Iryna Makhno against home favorites Lena Plesiutschnig and Katharina Schützenhöfer was among the most spectacular in the entire tournament. The Ukrainians were clearly the underdogs but didn’t get fazed by having a packed Red Bull Beach Arena against them and played a fairly simple but equally efficient game to take the three-set victory and win their pool.
Matches involving two teams from the same country are far from unusual at the EuroBeachVolley, but not many happen in the same context of this one. Three days before the start of the tournament, Czechs Marie-Sara Stochlova and Martina Williams were out of the EuroBeachVolley but due to injuries of other players they we called up as substitutes. Stochlova joined Barbora Hermmanová while Williams paired with Michala Kvapilová and, guess what, the two, who had won a World Tour event together just ten days ago, faced each other in the Round of 24. Stochlova and Hermannová won what was certainly a special match for both of them and moved on.
The EuroBeachVolley is also a typical place for farewells and this year we were honored to say goodbye to Dutch star Marleen van Iersel. A two-time Olympian and continental champion, the 33-year-old defender won her first two matches with Pleun Ypma, extending her stay in the tournament and her career for two more days, but eventually fell to fellow Dutch and eventual silver medalists Katja Stam and Raisa Schoon in the Round of 16, ending her playing career in Vienna.
Of course we wouldn’t leave our champions Betschart and Hüberli out of this list, but if you thought we’d be here highlighting the gold medal match, think again. Defeating Stam and Schoon to win the title was certainly huge, but no more than the tremendous comeback they engineered to make it to the final. The Swiss had their backs against the wall in the semifinal, losing 14-11 to Germans Karla Borger and Julia Sude, but somehow fought back and scored five points in a row to take the match and head to the gold medal match with all the confidence in the world.