The World Championship Journey – The Beach Volley Blog

The World Championships start in Rome tomorrow and I couldn’t be more excited. It is by far the biggest spectacle on the 2022 beach volleyball calendar. There are 96 teams playing 206 matches on four courts over 10 days. And at the end of all that, two teams will be crowned champions of the world! It doesn’t get any bigger than that, but it also creates an huge challenge for one blogger to follow in his spare time.

To provide more depth, the Beach Volley Blog is going to take a different approach. I’ll focus all my attention on two teams to follow throughout the tournament. For the next 10 days we are going to follow Canadian men, Dan Dearing & Sam Schachter and Cuban women, Leila Martinez & Lidianny Echeverria as they battle at the World Championships. We’ll also meet all of the teams they encounter along the way. There promises to be plenty of drama with this approach and the World Championship drama has already begun in Dearing and Schachter’s pool.

Dan Dearing wins a joust against Michal Bryl in Tlaxcala. Photo by Volleyball World.

Why Canada and Cuba?

Neither of these teams are considered favorites to win the World Championships, but they’ve got the talent to knockout any of the teams that are. Three of the players, Sam, Leila and Lidianny, have played in the Olympics. Sam is even a World Champion at the U21 level from 2010. Both teams are in Rome because they won the NORCECA World Championships qualification tournament last April, but they are not merely continental quota fill ins. These teams can ball and have what it takes to still be playing on June 19th.

We’ll dig into the Cuban and Canadian back stories more over the coming days, but for any of you Podcast listeners, this episode of Sandcast, is a great place to get to know Sam and Dan (after you finish this article, of course).

The Cuban women don’t get many chances to compete far from home, but when they do, they turn heads. Last year they got my attention at the Cancun three event hub where they played with different partners. Leila & Mailen Deliz beat Mariafe Artacho & Taliqua Clancy in the first Cancun tournament and Lidianny & Yanisleidis Sanchez finished 5th in the final Cancun event. They made it to Tokyo via the Continental Cup and became partners just in time to play together at the Olympics. After breaking pool in Tokyo, they eliminated Raisa Schoon & Katja Stam in the first knockout round. As you can see, they cause the biggest teams all kinds of problems and everyone will be on high alert when they come across the Cubans in Rome.

Lidianny Echeverria hits past Brazil's Elize Maia in Tlaxcala pool play earlier this year.
Lidianny Echeverria hits past Brazil’s Elize Maia in Tlaxcala pool play earlier this year. Photo by Volleyball World.

The pools and the pace

The massive World Championship tournament has teams divided into 12 pools. The Canadian men will be competing in Pool B, while the Cuban women are in Pool H. The top two teams from each pool advance directly to the knockout stage along with the best four third place teams. The 8 remaining third place teams are paired off in the ‘Lucky Losers’ round, with the winners advancing as well. In total, 32 of the 48 teams make it into the knockout tournament bracket.

This tournament’s large size means that everything happens at a slower pace for the players. Teams are used to playing two or even three matches in a day, but that won’t happen in Rome. Teams play a maximum of once a day and often get a whole day off.

Late dropout makes Canadian task much harder

At the World Championships, pools usually have at least one ‘easy’ match. That couldn’t be further from the truth for Sam and Dan. Not to minimize the Ghanaian team, but Dearing and Schachter must have seen their third pool match against the Africans as a gimme when the pool schedules were published. But just this morning they learned that Paul Akan & Samuel Essilfie didn’t show up in Rome. I’m sure the Ghanaians are hugely disappointed and this was no doubt beyond their control, but their loss meant a new team had to be added. The team next up on the reserve list was Christiaan Varenhorst & Steven van de Velde. To say that the Dutch team is an upgrade is a massive understatement and suddenly Pool B looks very difficult to escape.

Dan Dearing reaches far over the net to block one back in pool play against Sweden in Tlaxcala
Dan Dearing reaches far over the net to sendone back in pool play against Sweden in Tlaxcala. Photo by Volleyball World.

Men’s pool B

The pool already included Poland’s Michal Bryl & Bartosz Losiak who have won two tournaments in 2022. Home team Daniele Lupo & Alex Ranghieri are a huge challenge, too. The Dutch team, which took 5th at the recent Elite 16 tournament in Jurmala, Latvia and took Bronze at last year’s World Tour Finals in Rome, take over the 47th seed in Rome. That seems pretty cruel to our newly adopted team, but the heroes journey is full of obstacles to overcome and our heroes will face plenty from the very start.

First up for Canada is the Italians Lupo and Ranghieri. Danielle Lupo is an Olympic silver medalist from Rio 2016. He won that medal with his long time partner, Paolo Nicolai, who he just split up with after playing in the Tokyo Olympics. Alex Ranghieri played in the Rio Olympics with Mr Skyball, Adrian Carambula. Carambula and Enrico Rossi are the number one seed at the World Championships as the top team from the host country. All of those Italian characters are playing in Rome this week, but will only enter the story if they intersect with our Canadian protagonists.

Lupo and Ranghieri are a new partnership this season and they haven’t exactly lit the world on fire. They have shown flashes of brilliance though and they’ll be playing in front of an Italian crowd. Sam and Dan’s path forward would look a lot smoother if they could pull of an opening match upset Check back here tomorrow to see how Schachter and Dearing’s first match in Rome went.

Dan Dearing & Sam Schachter’s World Championship Schedule
Date Stage Opponent Nationality Result
June 10th Pool B Daniele Lupo & Alex Ranghieri Italy
June 11th Pool B Michal Bryl & Bartosz Losiak Poland
June 13th Pool B Christiaan Varenhorst / Steven van de Velde Netherlands

Leila & Lidianny start off against USA

Our Cuban heroines also have a tough match on the tournaments opening day. They start off against regional rivals Terese Cannon & Sarah Sponcil from the United States. These teams have never met, although Lidianny and Sarah matched up with their different partners in Cancun 15 months ago. Sponcil got the win on that occasion, but a lot has changed for both players since then.

Terese and Sarah have been busy this year, playing in every Elite 16 and three Challenge tournaments. They have improved a lot as a new team, but have yet to hit their stride. They will be a formidable foe for Martinez and Echeverria to start off against in Rome as both teams look to send a message to the rest of their pool from the start.

Here is a look at what Pool H has in store for Martinez & Echeverria.

Leila Martinez & Lidianny Echeverria’s World Championship Schedule
Date Stage Opponent Nationality Result
June 10th Pool H Terese Cannon & Sarah Sponcil USA
June 12th Pool H Mariafe Artacho & Taliqua Clancy Australia
June 13th Pool H Farida El Askalany & Doaa Elghobashy Egypt

Follow the journey to the end

I chose carefully and really like these teams, so I won’t be surprised if we are still following them when medals are awarded. But if Sam & Dan or Leila & Lidianny get knocked out at some stage along the way, we’ll continue the World Championship journey with the team that beat them. The villains in our Roman saga will become the leading actors the next day.

I hope you are as excited about what is happening in Rome as I am. Keep visiting here to follow along.

You can play, too with Beach Pick’em

Just a quick reminder to anyone who hasn’t made their picks for Beach Pick’em yet, you can sign up and play up right up until the opening serve of both the men’s and women’s tournaments. But don’t wait long, time is running out.