The gladiator pit on the Jaarbeursplein in Utrecht shook on its foundations. Crowds were roaring and the atmosphere was electric. They had a lot to cheer for, because two Dutch teams won their group and secured a Golden Ball. It also was the night of the playoffs, in which it was do-or-die. The stress was excruciating, but in the end three extra teams per gender found their way into the next phase of the tournament of CM.com King of the Court Utrecht 2021.
Katja Stam and Raïsa Schoon had one thing in mind when returning to Utrecht, don’t be eliminated in the first round. They accomplished that and how! They won all three rounds, despite being faced with fierce competition. Hamburg Queen Laura Ludwig has teamed up with Latvia’s Anastasija Kravcenoka, the Norwegian team that had the longest stay in all of Hamburg’s tournament, Emilie Olimstad and Ingrid Lunde. In the last round the Dutch reached fifteen points within seven minutes, and they earned a Golden Ball.
Marleen van Iersel’s international beach volleyball career to come to an end. Together with Pleun Ypma she was eliminated in the first round. But she will play tomorrow as Anouk Vergé-Dépré’s partner, because Joana Heidrich had to withdraw with an injury. With six minutes left on the clock in the final round Vergé-Dépré landed on Heidrich’s foot with her knee and unfortunately Joana Heidrich wasn’t able to play further. She went to hospital to be checked, examination revealed she didn’t break her foot, but she’s unable to continue in the tournament. We wish her well and hope she recovers quickly.
The match was won by Brazil’s Barbara and Carol, who were on thirteen points when the incident occurred. Japan’s Suzuki and Ishii also progressed to the next phase.
In a gut-wrenching playoff five women’s teams had a final chance at progressing to the next phase. In an altered format the teams played three rounds of five minutes. After each round the team with the most points went through. Before the playoff started Dutch Madelein Meppelink informed the crowd she wasn’t able to play anymore due to an injury on her left foot. Her partner Sanne Keizer will continue the tournament with Mexime van Driel.
After the first round Marta Manegatti from Italy and Maria Belén Carro from Spain secured their continuation in the tournament, the second saw Sanne Keizer and Mexime van Driel through. In the final round Austria’s Lena Plesiutschnig and Katharina Schützenhöfer gathered most points and they are the team that went through as fifteenth and last to the next phase.
Mr. Skyball, Adrian Carambula, had a short visit to the King of the Court domain. Together with Edgars Tocs from Latvia they had to leave the arena after the first round. Last week’s bronze medal winners from Hamburg, the twins Bennet and David Poniewaz, are still riding the King of the Court train. With high risk serves and spectacular plays they have found their spot amongst the top teams in the world. They were eliminated in the second round, so that meant they would have to play the playoff as well.
The win in that group went to Brazilians Guto and Arthur, who outplayed Dutchies Dirk Boehlé and Mart van Werkhoven (who won the two previous rounds) and Belgians Dries Koekelkoren and Tom van Walle.
The final regular match of the night was played in a stadium that was on fire. Utrecht cheered as one for the home favorites Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen. The Dutch dynamic duo made most of that home court advantage and won the group. Also through to the next phase are Marco Krattiger and Moritz Pristauz, together with Canada’s Logan Mend and Gabriel Burlacu.
The men’s playoff German twins Poniewaz gave it their all and found themselves through to the last fifteen. The second round went to Slovenia’s Zemljak and Pokersnik. In the ultimate battle between three teams ‘Terminator’ Janis Smedins and ‘Lion King’ Aleksandrs Samoilovs grabbed the last ticket by beating Switzerland’s Métral / Haussener and the Spanish / Dutch combo of Huerta / Penninga.
Tomorrow we’ll continue the tournament with the Group Stage, in which fifteen teams per gender will fight for a spot in Saturday’s semifinals. The top-3 of each group will proceed to the semis, the teams that end in fourth place will fight in a knockout for the last semifinal spot.