Ontiveros & Virgen set the Example for Mexican Teams


LAUSANNE, Switzerland - During the first 17-season period of FIVB-sanctioned beach volleyball events, men’s and women’s pairs from Mexico had never finished higher than fifth on the World Tour.


But in April 2014 at a tournament on home sand next to the Pacific Ocean in Puerto Vallarta, Lombardo Ontiveros and Juan Virgen broke the lack of semifinal appearances for Mexico on the international circuit and claimed the bronze medal by defeating Germans Finn Dittelbach and Eric Koreng 2-1 (21-16, 18-21, 21-19) in a 62-minute third-place match.


In their next 35 international starts through July 2017, Ontiveros and Virgen advanced to five more semifinals at events in Turkey (Antalya), China (Xiamen and Qinzhou), Brazil (Fortaleza) and Poland (Olsztyn) to be ranked among the world’s elite pairs highlighted by a sixth-place standing on the 2016 points list.


Ontiveros and Virgen played together for the first time in an FIVB event at the 2012 FIVB Continental Cup competition in Moscow, where Mexico advanced to the finals before being eliminated by Austria for a berth at the London 2012 Olympic Games.


“We got together at FIVB events for the first time in Moscow 2012,” said Lombardo Ontiveros. “In that tournament, we switched partners for the golden set. Although we missed out in qualifying for London, we had the opportunity to share our Olympic dreams with each other, thus we talked with our coach and he accepted to guide us.”


“To achieve our goals, our dreams, we had to synchronize our work and play," said Virgen. "We have dealt with the hard moments together, accompanied by our coach, and always have in mind what we are fighting for; these are the key points of our partnership.”


Speaking about memorable moments together, Lombardo Ontiveros cites matches at the final 2016 Olympic qualifying event in Germany, followed by a pool play victory at the Rio Summer Games and a gold medal win at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games.


“By defeating the Latvians (Martins Plavins and Haralds Regza, 2-0, 21-18, 21-19 in 34 minutes) in Hamburg, we qualified for the Rio Olympics. That match also advanced us to the quarterfinals, where we lost to Alison (Cerutti) and Bruno (Oscar Schmidt) in three sets,” said Lombardo Ontiveros about their fifth-place finish in the German event.


The Rio pool play win over eventual Rio silver medal winners Daniele Lupo and Paola Nicolai “opened the 2016 Olympics for us with a victory,” Ontiveros continued. “We won two of our four matches on Copacabana and placed ninth in one of our sport's biggest events.”


Ontiveros said the “Toronto gold medal win over a Brazilian team was the first time that Mexico had won a major gold medal in our sport. That opened the door for us to continue playing at an international level.”


In the Toronto Pan American Games, second-seeded Vitor Felipe and Alvaro Filho of Brazil defeated Ontiveros and Virgen 2-0 (21-14, 33-31) in a 57-minute pool play match before the Mexicans avenged the setback in the finals by scoring a 2-1 (18-21, 21-13, 15-8) win in 57 minutes.

As for the top teams on the FIVB World Tour currently, Virgen mentions pairs from the Netherlands (Alexander Brouwer/Robert Meeuwsen), Norway (Andres Mol/Christian Sorum) and the United States (Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena).


 “Those three teams have good defensive quality,” said Virgen of the three teams that the Mexican pair has posted a 2-11 record against on the FIVB World Tour. We have to be very strategic with them.”


In addition to competing on the FIVB World Tour together along with also placing second at the Lima 2019 Pan American Games, Ontiveros and Virgen have compiled a winning record on the NORCECA Tour where the Mexicans have captured 12 gold medals in 24 starts together with three seconds, two thirds and 18 semifinal appearances.


As for the World Tour, Ontiveros and Virgen have competed together 63 times on the FIVB circuit with a 140-110 match mark (56.0 winning percentage). In two Pan American Games, Lombardo Ontiveros and Virgen have won 11 of 14 matches with a pair of medals.


In three FIVB World Championship appearances, Lombardo Ontiveros and Virgen have placed ninth, 17th and 33rd with a 7-6 match mark. At the 2017 Vienna Worlds, the Mexicans defeated eventual gold medal winners Evandro Goncalves and Andre Loyola in three sets during pool play. Ontiveros and Virgen also defeated Evandro and Pedro Solberg in pool play at the 2015 World Championships in the Netherlands where the Brazilians captured the bronze medal.


As for their current status, Ontiveros said “we were in total confinement for several months, but weeks ago we finally started to train little by little. We started the season working hard but being at home and stopping the travel was complicated because it is a radical change to our past way of living. But the pandemic has given us time to live with our families at home and do things that we are not used to since we usually don´t have time.”


Still seeking a spot in the Tokyo Summer Games, Virgen said “the delay of the Olympics was something that we never expected. We try to see it in the best way as an opportunity to get better physically and mentally. We are trying to get focus and see the positive things and changes that this brings to our team.”