Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy are through to the quarter finals of the beach volleyball Olympic tournament after beating China in straight sets [22-20, 21-13] in their round-of-16 match at Shiokaze Park on Sunday night.
Australia showed they are legitimate medal contenders, dominating the second set after a tightly-contested opener.
China were a force to be reckoned with in the first set, which was fought point for point, with Clancy and Wang in particular trading blows at the net. Australia showed patience throughout and forced a break at the perfect time, going up 19-17 after the change of ends and eventually closing the set 22-20 at the third set point.
Australia took control of the second set early on, finding their tempo and never relinquishing the lead. China had no answer for Artacho’s flat serve down the line and Australia broke away with a 6-0 run punctuated by some huge blocks from Clancy. Xue and Wang tried to stay in the match and again saved three match points, but Australia closed out convincingly to take the second 21-13.
With the end change at 18-17 in the first set, the match poised precariously, Clancy and Artacho del Solar paused before heading back to the court for a hug and some final words.
“It was a pivotal point in the match,” Artacho said. “We were just reinforcing that, no matter what happens, we’re in this together – I’ve got T and she’s got me. It’s making sure we know we’ve got each other’s backs no matter what,” she said.
From that point on, the Australians won 25 points to China’s 16, playing with a connection and dominance the pair are more than capable of, but hadn’t put on full display yet in Tokyo.
“It was really a great match,” Clancy agreed. “It was another step forward as a team, but we’re just enjoying the moment. The real tournament is only just beginning and this is the really good part. We’re going to recover and just get ready for the next one.
“China are a great team, we have so much respect for them. Chen has been on the tour for years, she’s one of the living legends of our sport and she paved the way. So we knew it was going to be a battle, we knew we had to bring out our best,” Clancy said.
Clancy and Artacho showed their class and seem to be finding their best volleyball at the right time, as they head into the quarter finals with an Olympic podium placement firmly in their sights.
“Our goal hasn’t really changed, we tournament we come up against great teams but at the end of the day it’s about our side of the court and what we do,” Artacho del Solar said. “So we’re just gonna keep strong and focus on controlling what we can control.”
The Aussie pair will take to the court again on Tuesday 3 August for their quarter-final match. They will face the winner of the round-of-16 match between Spanish pair Liliana/Elsa and 2019 World Champions Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes of Canada for a spot in the semifinals.