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Wednesday, 14 September 2016

#AboveTheNet: Beach Volleyball Tour Finals Hit The 6
The best on the beach take Toronto by storm to claim the tour title


Get ready Toronto, the Swatch Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour Finals are about to rock your city.  Remember those late nights watching beach volleyball parties at Copacabana during the #Rio2016 Summer Olympics?  Remember that feeling you had thinking how cool of a party that atmosphere looked?  Well, if you live in the Greater Toronto Area you can experience the excitement in person this week.  Oh and need an additional incentive to attend this world class sporting event?  Admission is FREE!!!  Yes, FREE to attend!!  Come on now....why wouldn't you attend?

This event will be the first Swatch Major Series event to hit the Great White North beaches in the two-year history of the series and the first time a FIVB beach volleyball tour event has been held in Canada since 2011 (Quebec Open).  In fact, the host location for the tour series finals was a secret from everyone for a majority of the season.  But what exactly is the Swatch Beach Volleyball Major Series?  Here is your history lesson:

  • The series was established in 2015 as a joint venture from Austrian companies Red Bull and ACTS Group
  • The Beach Volleyball Major Series is part of the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour
  • The tour has evolved in the short history of the series.  In 2015 there were only 4 scheduled events included in the tour series.  In 2016 an extra event was added, taking the tour series to 5 total events (including the World Tour Finals)
  • Porec, Croatia and Gstaad, Switzerland are the only tour sites to be used in both 2015 and 2016
  • Hamburg, Germany and Klagenfurt, Austria were added to the 2016 season while Stavanger, Norway was removed from the 2016 calendar
  • Of the 8 tour series events contested in 2015 and 2016 so far, Brazilian men have won 5 of them with duo Alison/Bruno Schmidt winning 3.  Other nations to win men's events include: Netherlands, USA and Latvia
  • Of the 8 tour series events contested in 2015 and 2016 so far, only two nations have claimed the titles: Brazil (5) and Germany (3).  In 2015 Brazil won 3 of the 4 events; however, in 2016 Germany have won 3 of the 4.  Brazil's Larissa/Talita lead the championship win total with 4 event titles, including 3 in 2015
  • To qualify for the tour finals event, a team must finish in the top eight of the 2016 FIVB World Tour Final point standings, with a maximum of two teams per gender per nation
  • 13 nations will be represented at the 2016 World Tour Finals with host nation Canada being the only nation to qualify the maximum amount of teams (4)
  • Argentina, Australia and Switzerland will send their first ever women's teams to the tour finals.  Latvia, Mexico and Poland will send their first ever men's teams.

Let's get to the preview of the 2016 Swatch Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour Finals:

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
2015 Champions:  BRA Alison/Bruno Schmidt (men) and BRA Larissa/Talita (women)
Format:  12 teams per gender divided into 4 pools of 3 teams.  All teams advance to single elimination playoff with pool winners receiving a bye to the quarterfinals

The Favourites

Alison / Bruno Schmidt - The Brazilians come to Toronto fresh off winning an Olympic gold medal on their home beach at the Rio games.  You couldn't ask for a better confidence and momentum builder than that.  But, put that win aside even, this is the best men's team in the world no questions asked.  The duo won the Porec Major earlier this season in Croatia and are the defending tour finals champions.  Do they suffer a slight emotional letdown coming off the Rio win or does the momentum continue?  They have been given a very favourable pool draw and should win the group.  If so, I wouldn't bet the farm against this team playing well into the weekend.


Ludwig / Walkenhorst - See above basically!  The German's recently took home the gold medal in Rio and have been one of the most dominant teams on tour this season.  They have already won tour series events in Hamburg and Klagenfurt.  They enter this event as the #2 seeds but have been playing as the best team in the world for the past three months.  They draw the #7 seeded Swiss and #10 Argentine teams in the pool play and should come out with a perfect 2-0 record.  This will be a dangerous team come playoff time.


Watch Out For

Brouwer / Meeuwsen - The Dutch duo also come to Toronto fresh off a podium finish in Rio, taking home a bronze medal.  While they enter the tournament as the #7 seeds, they showed in Rio any team taking them lightly will regret it.  This team has played together for years and has found success on tour numerous times.  In fact they won the first ever major series event back in 2015, the Porec Major in Croatia.  Their pool draw will be tricky, being placed in the same group as the #2 seeded Latvians.  However, the Latvians missed the playoffs in Rio while the Dutch found the podium.  Could history repeat in Canada?


Larissa / Talita - The all-time leaders in tour series wins may come to Toronto as the #3 seeds but will strongly be considered as the team to watch all week.  There really is nothing in the sport this team has not won...except the Olympic gold medal.  Larissa won a bronze in 2012 and this duo suffered a tough bronze medal loss to USA's Ross / Walsh Jennings in Rio.  The question will be how the team rebounds from the tough loss at home on the biggest stage for the sport.  If they can regain their confidence and put the disappointment of the Olympics behind them, watch out!  We can only hope to see a rematch between them and the #1 seeded Americans in the playoff round.


The Dark Horse

Saxton / Schalk - The Canadians earned the #4 seed in the event based on their outstanding performance on tour this season but will also compete as a bit of an unknown.  Canada has not established itself to be considered a world power in beach volleyball, as compared to Brazil or USA.  The Canadians are only recently starting to become a podium contenders week in and week out on tour.  The duo enter off a quarterfinal appearance in Rio and draw the same Brazilian team (Pedro Solberg / Evandro) in their pool play here.  The Canadians upset the Brazilians at home in Rio in three tough sets.  The Brazilians will be looking for some revenge as the "road" team but if the Canadians can duplicate the win in Rio, they have a great chance to win this group and make a podium push.


Bansley / Wilkerson - Ok so there is a slight homer theme going here for dark horse teams, I realize that.  But honestly, what can we expect from this Canadian team this week?  Sure they enter as the #4 seeds but it hardly seems fair in a way.  Bansley earned the high seed based on the outstanding season she had with former partner Pavan.  After the Rio Olympics, and having already qualified for this event, the team made a shocking announcement that they would split up BEFORE the tour finals.  Huh?  To add to the drama, Bansley and Pavan would have to play one another (with new partners) to earn their spot in the main draw.  Bansley joined Wilkerson and defeated Pavan (with Humana-Paredes) 2-0 on Tuesday...also Bansley's birthday oddly enough.  This team is seeded high but, in reality, they are a new team.  Can they "gel" in a matter of weeks with only one major competitive match under their belts and come out with a strong result in front of the home nation fans?  Time will tell....but you certainly could not ask for a better dark horse story if they do!


#TwineTime Projected Standings:

Men

Pool A                                                                        Pool B

1. Alison / Bruno Schmidt (BRA)                             1. Brouwer / Meeuwsen (NED)
2. Virgen / Ontiveros (MEX)                                     2. Samoilovs / Smedins (LAT)
3. Ranghieri / Carambula (ITA)                                 3. Fijalek / Prudel (POL)

Pool C                                                                        Pool D

1. Lucena / Dalhausser (USA)                                   1. Schalk / Saxton (CAN)
2. Binstock / Schachter (CAN)                                  2. Pedro Solberg / Evandro (BRA)
3. Losiak / Kantor (POL)                                           3. Hyden / Bourne (USA)

Women

Pool A                                                                        Pool B

1. Ross / Walsh Jennings (USA)                                1. Ludwig / Walkenhorst (GER)
2. Bawden / Clancy (AUS)                                        2. Heidrich / Zumkehr (SUI)
3. Forrer / Verge-Depre (SUI)                                    3. Gallay / Klug (ARG)

Pool C                                                                        Pool D

1. Larissa / Talita (BRA)                                           1. Laboureur / Sude (GER)
2. Broder / Valjas (CAN)                                           2. Bansley / Wilkerson (CAN)
3. Elsa / Liliana (ESP)                                               3. Giombini / Menegatti (ITA)

MEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP:  Alison / Bruno Schmidt (BRA) def. Schalk / Saxton (CAN) - 3 sets

WOMEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP:  Larissa / Talita (BRA) def. Ludwig / Walkenhorst (GER) - 3 sets

Welcome to Canada beach volleyball's elite!  We welcome you with open arms....enjoy a timbit or two on us!