Ukraine’s Popov & Reznik and Brazil’s Pedro Solberg & Arthur take Dubai Challenge silver and bronze, respectively
Andrew Benesh and Miles Partain became the first US men’s team to win Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour gold at any level, as well as the first men’s team to start from the qualifications and make it all the way to the top of the podium at the Elite16 or Challenge levels. At the first of two back-to-back Challenge events in Dubai, 20-year-old Partain also became one of the youngest players ever to win at that level. At their second appearance on Tour, Benesh and Partain won all eight of their matches and dropped only two sets along the way to their first international podium as a pair.
Ukraine’s Sergiy Popov and Eduard Reznik, seeded third in the main draw, took the silver, their first medal at a Challenge tournament. They also have two silver medals at the Futures level.
13th-seeded Pedro Solberg and Arthur Mariano of Brazil claimed the bronze medals. It was the first ever world-level podium for the pairing of 36-year-old Rio 2016 Olympian Pedro and his 26-year-old partner.
The first set of the gold medal match was completely one-sided. Scoring five points in a row, 15th-seeded Benesh and Partain ran off with a 10-4 lead and never looked back on the way to a solid six-point margin close. Popov and Reznik started well in the second set, but the last time they had the lead was at 3-2. After that, all they could do is trail closer behind than in the first set. Benesh and Partain showed some phenomenal beach volleyball on the court and confidently cruised on to a comfortable 2-0 (21-15, 21-17) victory. For the last point, Partain hammered the ball on two, just like he did many times during the match. He was the top scorer of the game on a total of 21 points, all in offence.
“It’s really special that we started from the qualifier and battled all the way to get the gold medal. I think we did a really good job at taking it one point at a time,” Partain told Volleyball World after the final. “Now we get to celebrate for a couple of hours and then we are back in the qualifiers on Thursday. It’s an adventure. It’s a mystery and you never know how it’s going to go and that’s what makes it fun.”
“I am very proud of our federation for doing a great job supporting us. We, the men, have been lacking a little bit and we are trying to find our way back on the map,” Benesh added. “We believe in ourselves. We always have that hope, but not really expecting anything. We are just taking it moment by moment. Obviously, we want to get to a certain level, but that’s going to come over time.”
In both sets of a very tight bronze medal match, Horton and Scoles were pushed to overtime by their Thai opponents, fourth-seeded Taravadee Naraphornrapat and Worapeerachayakorn Kongphopsarutawadee, but managed to squeeze out a 2-0 (26-24, 22-20) victory, with Scoles delivering a match-high 26 points. The gap never exceeded two points throughout the first set and the lead went back and forth before the Americans scored three in a row to close it at 26-24. In the second, Horton and Scoles managed to break away with a 7-3 advantage, but the Asians caught up at 17-17 to prompt another interesting epilogue. They saved two match points for another tie at 20-20, but then served long to gift the Americans another one. Finally, Scoles put an end to the game with a monster block for 22-20.
Pedro Solberg & Arthur vs Webber & Cory highlights
The two semifinals were also played earlier in the day. A very tight first set between Webber and Cory and the Ukrainan duo was pushed to overtime and finally went the Americans’ way. However, Popov and Reznik bounced back and completely dominated the next two, capitalising on the many opponent errors to claim a 2-1 (22-24, 21-13, 15-9) victory. Then Benesh and Partain dominated the other semifinal against Pedro Solberg and Arthur, winning both sets by wide margins, 2-0 (21-15, 21-13).
The second Dubai Challenge tournament starts on Thursday.
Source: Volleyball World