FIVB Beach Volleyball world ranking leaders Anders Mol and Christian Sorum returned to international competition after nearly a year in great form at the Norwegians dominated their pool at the King of the Court 2020 in Utrecht, the Netherlands.
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The Beach Volley Vikings survived tough competition in the first time they appeared in an international tournament since the 2019 World Tour Finals and finished ahead of Poland’s Piotr Kantor/Bartosz Losiak and the Netherlands’ Dirk Boehle/Mart van Werkhoven on group C.
“It’s fun to play against so many different teams in such a short time,” Sorum reflected. “That’s what makes it challenging, you need to be ready for anything the entire time. It’s hard to analyze and game plan for every team across the net and to keep track of the score, so we thought we’d just go out there and play the best we could.”
The Beach Volley Vikings clan will have full force in the group stage as fellow Norwegians Hendrik Mol and Mathias Berntsen, who are Anders' brother and cousin respectively, joined a couple of Dutch duos in Alexander Brouwer/Robert Meeuwsen and Jasper Bouter/Ruben Penninga and advanced from the playoff stage.
Cherif Samba and Ahmed Tijan formed the other men’s team to finish the second day of competition on top of their pool as the Qataris topped 2019 FIVB World Championships silver medalists Julius Thole and Clemens Wickler of Germany and of the new Swiss tandem of Marco Krattiger and Florian Breer on group D.
“It’s our first time in this format and we loved it,” an excited Cherif remarked. “We just wanted to come here and have fun. During this long pause we really took some time to reflect and find ways to improve our game and after six months without playing we were hungry and determined to leave everything on the court.”
On the women’s side, veterans Sanne Keizer and Madelein Meppelink made the home fans proud as they were the only Dutch team to top its pool with their victory on group D. The 2018 European champions had the upper hand against Spain’s Paula Soria/Belen Carro and Czech Republic’s Michala Kvapilova/Michaela Kubickova in the final match.
“It’s a fun game, anything can happen,” Meppelink explained. “Sanne dealt with it much better than I did, I was freaking out all the time. I was so eager to come here and play as we’ve been waiting for so long to be able to play in front of families and fans. We’ll bring more fire for the next days, we’re going to battle until the end.”
Meppelink and Keizer advanced at the top of their pools
Marketa Slukova and Barbora Hermannova also secured the lead of a strong pool as the winners of group C, which also featured Brazil’s Agatha Bednarczuk/Duda Lisboa and the Netherlands’s Emma Piersma and Puk Stubbe.
“The final round went really fast,” Hermannova reacted. “I expected it to be this way, but it was even more than I imagined. At times we didn’t even have enough time to talk to each other between points and I had to sprint to the net. It’s been a great experience for us and it’s an interesting challenge to have to find ways to succeed in a format that’s so different than the one we’re used to.”
Outside of the six teams that advanced by making it to their pool finals, three other duos survived the playoffs and also remain in contention – USA’s April Ross/Emily Day, France’s Alexia Richard/Lezana Placette and the Netherlands’ Emi van Driel/Mexime van Driel.
Friday’s schedule includes three different sessions, with the remaining 15 teams in each gender split in three groups. The top three teams in each pool will advance and the fourth-placed duos will have the opportunity to compete in a playoff for the final semifinal berth.