13/07/2019 12:32
Álvarez and Carro - hoping to break “semifinal curse” together
CEV U22 Beach Volleyball European Championship 2019

Antalya, Turkey, July 13, 2019. Daniela Álvarez Mendoza is only 17, but she has already won five bronze medals at various youth World and European Championships since last year. This may sound like a great achievement for the rising star of Spanish Beach Volleyball, but to her it is more like a curse she is hoping to break as soon as this weekend at the  CEV U22 Beach Volleyball European Championships 2019 in Antalya, alongside her 20-year-old partner María Belén Carro Márquez de Acuña.

Together, Álvarez and Carro claimed the bronze at last year’s U22 European Championship in Jurmala and at the U21 World Championship in Udon Thani last month. In a tandem with Tania Moreno Matveeva, Daniela finished third at last year’s U19 World Championship in Nanjing and the U20 European Championship in Göteborg two weeks ago. At the 2018 U18 European Championship in Brno, Álvarez came third together with Sofía González Racero. But each of these bronze medal matches won also meant a semifinal match lost. And the fresh memory of the last one, 0-2 (19-21, 24-26) against eventual winners Mariia Bocharova and Maria Voronina in Sweden, is still painful for Daniela.

“Two weeks ago, when we lost to Russia in the semifinal of the U20 European Championship, I was really angry,” she admits. “Of course, when you reach the semifinals, you want to be in the final. But I am always very close, yet too far from the big match. Yes, I really want to break this curse and make the final here, in Antalya. And yes, I know I am young and I have time, but I want to do it this year, right now, because I am in good condition and I believe I can.”

Daniela Álvarez dives for the ball in Antalya

In three years, Daniela Álvarez turned from a young teenager, who had never played Beach Volleyball to a recognisable 190-cm-tall international athlete, aiming at an Olympic medal.

“I had played tennis for 11 years, when I switched to Volleyball. A friend of mine, who had already become a national champion of Spain in indoor Volleyball, told me I should play her sport. In 2015 I did both sports until the Beach Volleyball national team called me to train with them at the national centre. I had only played indoors for three months and did not know how to play Beach Volleyball,” Daniela tells her story.

The only time Daniela played at a major international event and did not claim the bronze was at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires. Álvarez and Moreno finished fifth and this bittersweet experience made Daniela even more ambitious in her sporting aspirations.

“It was amazing! It was the best experience of my lifetime,” she reminisces. “But I am also a little bit upset because we didn’t win a medal. In the quarterfinals, we lost to United States, a team we had beaten in the U19 World Championship bronze medal match three months earlier. It was sad, but that experience has made me look forward to winning a medal at the big Olympics as compensation. It’s so difficult, but this is my main goal now.”

María Belén Carro is not Daniela’s regular partner and the current #EuroBeachVolleyU22 is only their third tournament together. Whenever they team up, the younger of the two has to take on the role of defender. Despite this unusual change, this Spanish pairing has managed to win bronze at both their previous appearances.

“Belén is like a sister to me, because we have been living and training together for three years, although usually in Spain we play against each other, with different partners. She is an amazing player, a really good blocker and even though I do not normally play as a defender, next to Belén, I manage to do well in that role,” says Daniela.

“Sometimes I teach her, but sometimes she teaches me, because as a younger person she sees things from a different point of view. So we teach each other on the court,” explains María Belén.

María Belén Carro sets the ball

Just like Daniela, she was also told by her friends that her physical condition is the right one to play Volleyball. So she did, five years ago.

“I spent three years in my first club, before going to the national centre for Beach Volleyball in Lorca. This is where Daniela and I met each other,” says María Belén. “We started playing together in underage championships last year. I love her. She is a really good player. She is still very young, but with a bright future ahead of her. If she continues working the way she’s been doing, she will be one of the best players in the world for sure.”

The “bronze curse” does not really apply to Carro as she has already managed to snatch two silver medals on the FIVB World Tour.

“Yes, I play on the World Tour with my partner Paula Soria Gutiérrez. In our first year we managed to win two silver medals, at the one-star events in Manila and Bangkok. 2018 was a really good year, because we also won three gold medals in Spain and silver at the FISU World University Championship, but our goal is to play at four- and five-stars, which we started to do this year. Next week we are going to Espinho and then to Vienna,” she points out.

But she is really looking forward to playing at the CEV European Championship in Moscow next month.

“We already know our pool and we hope to make it past the pool stage. European teams are really good and the level there is so high, so we’ll see what happens, but we are ready to win some matches there.”

Before that, Belén and Daniela have a curse to break. They lost in three sets to that same Russian pair of Bocharova and Voronina in the pool stage, but having won all their other matches in straight sets, they are back in the game, already in the quarterfinals and possibly heading for another semifinal encounter with the Russians…

All #EuroBeachVolleyU22 matches are streamed live on EuroVolleyTV.

Click here for more information.

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