21/07/2018 21:35
Home stars Keizer and Meppelink are the 2018 Europe’s ‘Queens of the Beach’!
2018 CEV DELA Beach Volleyball European Championship

The Hague, The Netherlands, July 21, 2018. Sanne Keizer and Madelein Meppelink got the ‘orange party’ started on Saturday night at Sportcampus Zuiderpark in The Hague as they seized a rather surprising gold medal from the 2018 edition of the CEV European Beach Volleyball Championship. Keizer and Meppelink beat Switzerland’s Tanja Hüberli and Nina Betschart 2-0 (21-16, 26-24) before a sell-out, raucous 3,000-strong crowd to claim the second European title in their careers. Keizer and Meppelink had achieved the same feat previously – both together with Marleen van Iersel – in 2012 and 2014, respectively. Marketa Slukova/Barbora Hermannova of Czech Republic were the recipients of the bronze medals following their victory over Spain’s Liliana Fernandez Steiner/Elsa Baquerizo in the ‘small final’ held earlier on Saturday.

After a short spell in 2017, Keizer/Meppelink have been playing together since the early stages of the 2018 season, with their best result up until Saturday night being a silver medal from the 3-Star event held in Mersin, Turkey back in May. However, they have such a wealth of class and experience that they somehow can make up for the very short time they have spent as a team. They did so since the beginning of this year’s #EuroBeachVolley, sweeping three matches in a row in their pool in Rotterdam and marching from triumph to triumph along the way to the gold medal match.

They showed a rhythm their opponent could not keep up with in the first set and came from behind, cancelling a four-point deficit, in the second set. The right share of drama was there towards the end of the game where they needed as many as four match points to get the party started – after Hüberli/Betschart had wasted two opportunities to call for the tiebreaker in the meantime. It is a truly remarkable result especially for Keizer, who spent more than three years away from competitive sport to focus on her studies and starting a family. The obviously emotional Keizer shared that joy with husband and children – who followed her flying mum together with thousands of other Dutch fans from the stands. Keizer had previously won her ‘only’ European title in The Hague as well – back in 2012 when the competition took place on the nearby beach of Scheveningen.

“I think it was a wonderful journey. I think that in the pool play against France I, personally, played at a very bad level and I learned a lot from that game,” Meppelink said after the medal ceremony. “I was extremely upset with the defeat but we learned a lot in the process and it gave me confidence that we could do it better. I really wanted to do it better and it helped us as we grew every time; we played better with every game. I am very happy with that.”

“We have played together for just half a year, so we are really happy with the progress we have made, but we are also experienced athletes, so we know it goes with ups and downs and we know that the downs will come as well. That is why you need to enjoy the ups even more,” the now two-time European champion Meppelink continued. “It is such a big up winning the European Championship in your own country. It’s great.”

The complete podium of the 2018 #EuroBeachVolley in The Hague

“As I have said a few times already, there were lots of ups and downs,” Keizer commented. “In the end we only had ups but still, in the last two games we had had to fight very hard. Until the last second, I had to fight for every point and it was not easy. It think that for me the whole trip was quite difficult, because the pool phase was very long, with matches played every day. The days were very long and coming here, we played two games almost in a row, so the whole tournament was hard, with no time to relax or sit back – we had to fight every second of it. But at this moment, since I am a mum, I enjoy every ball I can play.”

As for Hüberli/Betschart, the Swiss had to be content with silver – the second such medal for Hüberli after in 2014 she lost the final to Meppelink/Van Iersel while playing with her former partner Tanja Goricanec. As for Betschart, a multiple medallist from European and World age group Championships, second place in The Hague coincides with her first medal at a major ‘senior’ event. “We obviously feel disappointment at the moment,” Hüberli acknowledged. “We have been playing extremely well the last couple of days and we were hoping to make it all the way through to the end. Back in 2014, I won silver starting from seed no. 28 – so that was definitely a pleasant surprise. This time, we came here knowing we were the fifth seed; this surely does not mean that you are definitely going to stand on the podium by the end of the competition, but the expectations were high. The emotions have to sink in first and in a few days, we will probably review this tournament and our performance with more positive feelings.” 

Slukova/Hermannova regroup to seize #EuroBeachVolley bronze

It is always quite challenging to play a bronze medal match almost straight after losing in the semis. Teams from the Czech Republic and Spain had to do so on Saturday late afternoon in The Hague, only a couple of hours after losing truly dramatic semi-finals where they both had a real shot at a spot in the ‘grand finale’ of the tournament. On top of the obvious disappointment resulting from such setbacks, Liliana Fernandez Steiner had to deal with a finger injury that prevented her from blocking and hitting the ball as hard as she usually does. This meant that the two teams contesting the ‘small final’ had to work hard to find the right mental and physical energy required to end the tournament on a high note.

Barbora Hermannova and Marketa Slukova (CZE) look happy with their bronze medal

After a close start and with the teams siding out with impressive consistency, Slukova and Hermannova ran away to win the first set 21-18. Liliana/Elsa wasted a 5-1 lead in the early stages of the second set and after that, they slowly but surely ran out of energy – with a medical timeout leading into their withdrawal at 20-16 for the Czechs in the second set.

As a result, Slukova and Hermannova secured their second #EuroBeachVolley medal to go with the silver they won back in 2016 in Biel / Bienne. At the same time, they made sure that a Czech team has been on the podium for three years in a row now for their compatriots Kristyna Kolocova and Michala Kvapilova had won silver las year in Jurmala. The Czech Republic have improved their record in the competition to two gold, three silver and four bronze medals since the first edition of the women’s #EuroBeachVolley took place in Espinho in 1994.

“Right after the match I was still a bit upset about the loss from the semi-final game, because we were so close to winning that match,” Hermannova said. “I was so disappointed and I took this disappointment with me into the bronze medal game, but at some point I let it go and we were just fighting with Maki. She fought so well in that last game and she took me by the hand to win this bronze medal and now I am super happy that we have it.”

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News nr. 1 of 37
21/07/2018 17:57:00
Switzerland and Netherlands emerge victorious from dramatic women’s semis

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