Canada Advances & Cuba Gives Way to Switzerland

Dan Dearing and Sam Schachter won their second match in a row today to advance to the round of 32 in Rome. Sadly our World Championship journey with Leila Martinez & Lidianny Echeverria came to an end in the Lucky Losers round. Canada got their win over Mexican pair Miguel Sarabia & Juan Virgen. The Cuban women fought hard, but ultimately fell to Switzerland’s Esmée Böbner & Zoé Vergé-Dépré in three sets (21-16, 13-21, 15-12).

Böbner & Vergé-Dépré are just a little luckier

This lucky losers match was very entertaining. The opening of this set was one way traffic for Switzerland as they burst out to a 5 – 0 lead. Vergé-Dépré’s serve gave Lidianny all kinds of problems with aces and getting Cuba out of system early. Lidy annd Leila even decided to switch sides after just three points to try to get Lidy a break, but Zoé found her on the right side for her third ace. When Cuba finally mounted an attack Zoé got enough of a dig for Esmée to sprint after and extend the point which Switzerland eventually won.

After the initial storm passed, Cuba settled into a side out rhythm, but the Swiss ladies were able to handle their aggressive serves and side out consistently themselves. Cuba did claw their way back slowly and closed the lead to 2 when Lidy swept down an overpass bringing the gap to just two points,14-16. Switzerland didn’t panic though and finished off the set up 21-16

Cuba comes back strong

The second set was a very different story with Cuba building an 8-5 advantage and then exploding to a 13-5 lead before winning the set 21-13. Lidy was having her way at the net with several big blocks to go with overpasses for her to attack. Cuba looked more and more comfortable in side out with Lidy unstoppable from the wide attacking position and Leila flawless with her chances.

Leila hits past Esmée in lucky loser’s match today. Photo by Volleyball World.

Things changed in a hurry in the third set again, with Switzerland building a quick 3-0 lead. Böbner got a block and two Cuban bump sets traveled over the net where she waited to end the point. Switzerland were a bit careless with their serve and gave Cuba time to regroup. Cuba got a couple of big defensive plays by Leila to close the gap all the way to 8-7 at the third side switch. When Esmée set straight over, Lidy poked it deep for a 9-9 tie and it felt like Cuba was on its way to win.

Instead, Esmée stopped the Cuban momentum with an ace down the middle and restored an 11-9 lead. Cuba made life hard on the Swiss though. The final two points could have gone either way but it was Switzerland who won both long battles and kept Cuba from snatching the match at the last gasp.

Dearing and Schachter dispatch Mexico

The Canadians came out of the most difficult group in Rome and they were the most battle hardened pair of the eight lucky losers on the men’s side. The dynamic defender Miguel Sarabia and familiar blocking foe Juan Virgen were no pushovers, but they couldn’t keep pace with Canada over two sets.

I rarely watch the video feed before the game starts but for some reason I glanced up at the serving practice before this one. Schachter hit a flat jump float serve into the top of the net and the ball trickled over. I doubt if he was trying to do that, but when he started serving for real, Schachter repeated the feat twice in a row putting Canada up 2-0 on two trickle aces. The affable Juan Virgen responded with a huge smile and a shake of the head as he pulled himself up from the sand down 2-0.

Dan Dearing and Sam Schachter celebrate a big point in their Lucky Loser win over Mexico.
Dan Dearing and Sam Schachter celebrate a big point in their Lucky Loser win over Mexico. Photo by Volleyball World.

Virgen quickly erased those fluky points with two aces of his own and a beautiful transition set from way off the court for Sarabia to score. Mexico surged ahead to a 6-3 lead but the Canadians slowly chipped away at their advantage. Mexico held the break all the way up to 16-16 when Virgen missed an open opportunity to put away an overpass. On the next play Dearing converted Sam’s dig with a huge second ball swing. A set by Virgen was way too tight on the next point and suddenly the set belonged to Canada 21-17.

Canada used several runs of points to build leads in the second set, but Mexico kept coming back at them. Dan and Sam’s third three point run of the match came right at the end put the set and the match to rest 21-16.

Welcome to the beach volley blog, Esmée Böbner & Zoé Vergé-Dépré

As explained in the first post of this series, when one of the teams we are following loses, we will continue the World Championship journey with the team that knocked them out. Esmée & Zoé earned their beach volley blog take over today by getting off to a fantastic start against Cuba and staying steady under pressure down the stretch. There is no time to get sentimental about saying goodbye to Cuba, although there is no denying they’ll be missed.

Switzerland are a young team, but they have plenty of experience. Zoé, the defender, is 24 years old, and Esmée is 22. They played in Pool E where they finished third. In their final match against Italians Valentina Cali & Margherita Tega, Zoé had a heavily bandaged leg. The Italians gave them a real scare in that three set encounter but the Swiss prevailed and Zoé’s leg seemed much healthier today. Before these World Championships started they had already paired up 29 times on the world tour, winning a gold and two silvers at one and two star events. They’ve played in every challenge level tournament this season, topping out at fifth in Tlaxcala.

Sister battle in the round of 32

As we pick up the journey with our new team, the story couldn’t get any better. Zoé’s big sister Anouk Vergé-Dépré is a two time Olympian, wining a bronze medal last summer in Tokyo. She won that Olympic medal with her partner Joanna Heidrich and guess who Esmée and Zoé get to play tomorrow evening in Rome? That’s right, the sisters will be doing battle to advance to the round of 16. I can’t wait for that one. They played earlier this year in Tlaxcala with the Anouk and Joana coming out on top in three (15-21, 21-17, 15-12). There probably aren’t any teams that know each other as well as these two do, so it will be a very fun one to watch.

Esmée Böbner & Zoé Vergé-Dépré’s World Championship Schedule
Date Stage Opponent Nationality Result
June 10th Pool E Sophie Bukovec & Brandie Wilkerson Canada Loss (22-24, 17-21)
June 11th Pool E Kelly Cheng & Betsi Flint USA Loss (21-16, 17-21, 12-21)
June 12th Pool E Valentina Cali & Margherita Tega Italy Win (19-21, 21-16, 15-12)
June 14th Lucky Losers Leila Martinez & Lidianny Echeverria Cuba Win (21-16, 13-21, 15-12)
June 15th Round of 32 Joana Heidrich & Anouk Verge-Depre Switzerland

Canadians get a pretty nice draw

Coming out of the lucky losers round, you are sure to get the winners of either group A, B, C or D. If the groups had gone to form, that would be one of the top four teams in the world. Schachter and Dearing played in pool B, so they knew it was going to be one of the other pool winners. It could have been Cherif & Ahmed or Carambula & Rossi, but instead they drew Estonians Kusti Nõlvak & Mart Tiisaar. The Estonians have been very hot this year with two fourth place finishes, including the recent Elite 16 tournament in Jurmala. But to avoid the home town favorites and the most explosive team on the planet in the round of 32 was welcome news for Sam and Dan. Kusti & Mart are in this position because they got a huge win over a team that has spent much of this season ranked number one in the world, Brouwer and Meeuwsen. Virgen and Sarabia were also in this pool.

Dan Dearing & Sam Schachter’s World Championship Schedule
Date Stage Opponent Nationality Result
June 10th Pool B Daniele Lupo & Alex Ranghieri Italy Loss (22-20, 18-21, 12-15)
June 11th Pool B Michal Bryl & Bartosz Losiak Poland Loss (23-25, 19-21)
June 13th Pool B Christiaan Varenhorst & Steven van de Velde Netherlands Win (21-16, 11-21, 15-9)
June 14th Lucky Losers Miguel Sarabia & Juan Virgen Mexico Win (21-17, 21-16)
June 15th Round of 32 Kusti Nõlvak & Mart Tiisaar Estonia

I don’t want to start counting unhatched chickens, but if the Canadians win tomorrow things look pretty good after that, too. The next round would be against the winners of Leon Luini & Ruben Penninga (Netherlands) and Tri Bourne & Trevor Crabb (United States). They could have faced a tournament favorite in the round of 32, but by this draw they won’t face one until the round of 8 at the soonest. At that point they’ll be on a four match winning streak and ready to knock off a giant.

The Beach Volley Blog is following the World Championships from pool to podium through the experience of two unique paths. Canadians Sam Schachter & Dan Dearing and Cubans Leila Martinez & Lidianny Echeverria got us started. Swiss women Esmée Böbner & Zoé Vergé-Dépré took over for Cuba entering the round of 32. Find all the stories in the links below.