AUSTRALIANS THE TEAM TO BEAT AS NEW EXCITING PARTNERSHIPS UNFOLD AT THE WOMEN’S BEACH PRO TOUR ELITE 16 EVENT IN TORQUAY
Australians Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar will be the team to beat in Torquay, with the Tokyo Olympic Games silver medallists leading a strong field of international competitors participating in the women’s Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Elite 16 event.
The tournament – the highest level of the Beach Pro Tour – starts on 29 November as part of the Great Ocean Road Beach Volleyfest (23 Nov – 4 Dec).
Currently at no. 5 in the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) women’s world ranking, the Aussies hold the top seed in the Elite 16 women’s main draw ahead of the American duos of Sara Hughes & Kelly Chang and Kristen Nuss & Taryn Kloth, who are also expected to contend for the title.
Clancy and Artacho del Solar have been consistent all year, finishing outside the top-eight of a Beach Pro Tour event only once in seven participations. Earlier in the year they won a bronze medal in the Elite 16 event at Gstaad (SUI) and claimed gold and silver medals in Challenge events in Portugal and Türkiye. They have also won silver medals at the Commonwealth Games and at the Asian Beach Volleyball Championships, finishing in fifth place at the World Championships in Rome.
With the local crowds behind them, they’d be looking forward to adding another success to their tally, which includes seven victories on the Beach World Tour prior to this season.
The Australians will also have chemistry on their side, as they hold one the longest partnerships among the favourites, dating back to 2018. With the Paris 2024 Olympic qualification period starting next January, the Beach Pro Tour season has been characterised by several changes in partnerships, as players keep seeking out new teammates who might lead them to the next Olympic Games.
Such is the case for the no.2 seed in the main draw, Americans Sara Hughes and Kelly Chang. The two have just reunited after their previous partnership ended in 2018, and will play in their first international event together in over four years. Cheng has already achieved success on the Beach Pro Tour this season with former partner Betsi Flint, winning the Elite 16 event in Hamburg and achieving a couple of fourth places in other Elite 16 events. She and Hughes are now keen to pick up right where they left, when they were regarded as one of the most promising teams on the American circuit.
The young and upcoming duo of Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth could also pose a serious challenge for the title. The Americans are ranked 16th in the world and made their international debut earlier this year in Australia, claiming gold at the Coolangatta Futures. With another success at the Challenge level in Türkiye and quarter-finals reached at Elite 16 events in Gstaad, Paris and Cape Town, the pair is ready to prove themselves as a contender at the elite level in Torquay.
Germans Julia Sude and Isabel Schneider and Americans Betsi Flint and Julia Scoles round up the women’s main draw top-five. Flint and Scoles are another duo making their international debut together, while the recent partnership of Sude and Schneider cemented in Dubai, where the Germans recently finished fifth in their first Challenge event together before winning gold in the second.
The local crowds will have a chance to cheer for two more Aussie teams participating in the Torquay Elite 16 event. Alisha Stevens and Rio 2016 Olympian Nicole Laird are seeded at no. 12, while Georgia Johnson and Jasmine Fleming will start from the qualification tournament.
Billed as the main event of the Great Ocean Road Beach Volleyfest, the Torquay Elite 16 event starts on Tuesday 29 November with the qualifying round, with men’s and women’s main draw pool matches scheduled for the next day and Finals on Saturday 4 December.
The Great Ocean Road Beach Volleyfest will be held from 23 November to 4 December 2022 at Torquay beach with tickets starting from $5 available at https://beachvolleyfest.com.au/.