Sponcil and Claes win second in a row 

OSTRAVA - Just a week after winning their first FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour gold in Sochi, Sarah Sponcil and Kelly Claes snatched their second.  

The ninth-seeded American pair topped the women’s podium at the J&T Banka Ostrava Beach Open 2021 4-star on Sunday to crown a fabulous fortnight during which they also qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. 

Third-seeded Joana Heidrich and Anouk Verge-Depre of Switzerland settled for the Ostrava silver, their fourth runner-up finish on the World Tour. 

The bronze went to 19th-seeded Brazilians Barbara Seixas and Carol Solberg. It was the first Tour medal for the two players competing as a pair. 

Sponcil and Claes stormed into the first set of the final on a 4-1 run, only to allow the Swiss to catch up at 8-8. A three in a row gave the Americans a renewed 15-12 lead, a blow Heidrich and Verge-Depre could no longer recover from. Claes tipped the ball over the block to close the set at 21-18. Early in the second set, Team Slaes broke away with a 5-1 lead and never looked back. It was once again Claes who elegantly put the final touch to stop the clocks at 21-15. 

“They are a great team and I thought they played really well. We just kind of took care of the ball when we needed to. I think they made a lot of good plays, but we didn’t really let it affect us. We just tried to focus on us and what we wanted to do on the court. So yes, we did good...” Kelly Claes said upon receiving the trophy. 

“We’re on a good roll right now. We had our first gold medal and qualified for the Olympics, but we tried to put that on the back burner and really focus on this tournament. And we came up with a win. I have an amazing partner and the Czech fans are amazing!” Sarah Sponcil added. 

After a tight beginning, halfway through the opening set of the bronze medal match against Canada’s Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes, Barbara and Carol gradually widened their lead that reached six points at the end of the set, with Barbara hammering the ball for the final 21-15. The second set followed pretty much the same plot, only this time the 21-16 winner was delivered by Carol with a monster block. 

“First, we have to congratulate the Canadian team. They are world champions and have been having a great campaign,” Barbara said after the victory. “So we knew we had to start our game with 100 per cent attention and really focused on what we had to do. We are really experienced players, but new as a team, so I’m really happy with this result and really proud of our team and the work we’ve been doing.” 

“For us, to be in the semifinals was so important,” Carol added. “We really appreciate being here. We were prepared for some really cold weather in the Czech Republic, so I am so happy that the sun came for us. The crowd is amazing, the venue is beautiful and I’m so happy to be here,” Carol added.