2012 The Hague
1 Keizer-Van Iersel
Getting to know: Italy’s rookie Silvia Costantini
Austria, July 30, 2013. A week ago Silvia Costantini could barely
imagine she would have travelled to Klagenfurt to play at the European
Championship together with Greta Cicolari, a gold medallist from the
2011 edition in Kristiansand. “My life turned upside down in a couple of
days” says the 21-year old from Pescara. “Last week Greta was looking
for a partner after she had parted ways with Marta Menegatti. She wrote
me an SMS asking me whether I was interested in playing with her
starting here in Klagenfurt. I could not believe my eyes”.
Though on Tuesday they lost their opening game in pool play to
Germany’s Victoria Bieneck and Julia Grössner, Greta Cicolari is not
too disappointed: “That was our first real game and Silvia who never
played internationally before showed a lot of maturity. She played like
any other player competing here who has got much more experience on the
international stage”. But how did the 2011 European champion decide to
team up with a young girl whose only international appearance was at the
U19 World Championship some years ago by the time she was only 17?
“After parting ways with Marta Menegatti, I had to look around and find
someone to play with. I was not interested in playing with any other
girl from the national team so I made five phone calls asking for
advice. The people I talked to all recommended Silvia and so I decided
to give it a try. Moreover, Silvia is very young and has a lot of
potential, so in my mind she somehow has got the right features for me
to continue with what I previously did with Marta. I am working with a
young player who has got good perspectives and I am pretty sure that
this was the right move for me”.
Curiously, Silvia Costantini – who won the first leg of Italy’s national
tour this year and was planning to complete the summer season with her
usual partner – is a blocker playing on the left side of the court, so
this may turn into a problem in order to set up a well-matched duo. “We
needed to find a compromise and so we decided that she will play in
defence but keep the left side” Cicolari reveals. “Today’s match was the
very first game in my career I had to move to the right while Silvia
had never played in defence before. So finally we can be quite satisfied
with the result and this is something we can build on”.
Cicolari and Costantini trained together for only three days – from
Friday through Sunday – in Ancona before travelling to Klagenfurt.
Silvia landed in a somehow totally different world than the one she is
used to. “Sometimes I did joke with my partner saying that I would never
leave her unless one day someone like Greta Cicolari or Marta Menegatti
would call asking me to play together. And this finally happened last
week by the time I had already signed for the next indoor season and had
plans for the remainder of the summer. I can’t complain because this is
a great opportunity and to start with a European Championship is
absolutely amazing. I was a little nervous before the start of the game
but then I calmed down and played quite relaxed. Actually I was more
nervous yesterday as we played one set with some sparring partners as
that was somehow my real international debut”.
Cicolari knows it will take time to achieve top results but nevertheless
has set clear goals for this European Championship: “Of course we take
it step by step but we want to make it through the pool phase. We shall
beat the young girls from Lithuania in a game where we do stand a chance
and I think we can perform well also against Ukolova and Khomyakova.
Once we get to the single elimination round, everything else will be a
bonus but of course we never play to lose” says Cicolari, who sounds as
determined as always.
Austria, July 30, 2013. Vasiliki Arvaniti – together with Laura Ludwig –
is the only active player whose resume includes two European
Championship titles. After claiming the fictional crown of Europe’s
queen of the beach in 2005 and 2007 together with Vassou Karadassiou,
last year she settled for second place with partner Maria Tsiartsiani as
she could not stop local heroines Marleen van Iersel and Sanne Keizer
on their way to a much anticipated home triumph. After the Olympic year,
“Vicky” moved on to the fourth “stage” of her Beach Volleyball career
as she teamed up with Panagiota Karagkouni on her way to Rio 2016.
Click here for a video interview with Vassiliki Arvaniti and partner Panagiota Karagkouni (this web app works best in Chrome and Safari)
On Tuesday the Greek girls started out their European campaign with a
close game against Slovakia’s Natalia Dubovcova and Dominika Nestarcova.
Arvaniti did show glimpses of her class as she set the tempo on her way
to a 25-23, 25-23 win over the physically imposing Slovaks. The 24th
seeded duo from Greece profited of Arvaniti’s experience as the game got
very close and eventually had the upper hand by cashing their fourth
match ball in the second set. Slovakia’s Dubovcova and Nestarcova had
their chances too but they could not capitalize on a few set balls.
Arvaniti’s first appearance at the European Championship dates back to
2003 by the time as a 17-year old she played alongside Efthalia
Koutroumanidou. Since that time she has gone quite a long way winning
nine tournaments on the European Tour and competing at three consecutive
Olympics with three different partners – Koutroumanidou in 2004,
Karadassiou in 2008 and Tsiartsiani this past year in London. “My goal
is to make it to Rio 2016; by then I will be 32, so it won’t be too late
for my fourth Olympics”.
20-year Panagiota “Penny” Karagkouni has played Beach Volleyball for
only three months but Arvaniti is confident the partnership has good
perspectives. “In March I finished the indoor season playing in Greece’s
first division for the likes of Iraklis Kifisias and then started
preparing for the summer season” Karagkouni says.
Penny was chosen by Arvaniti herself in cooperation with the Hellenic
Volleyball Federation. “She will switch completely to Beach Volleyball
and focus entirely on this sport. I think we have already achieved good
results for the short time we have spent together” Arvaniti says. “After
the European Championship we’ll travel to Berlin for the FIVB Grand
Slam where we will play the qualification. It takes some time for us to
get the points we need to start directly from the Main Draw. We take it
step by step; right now we need practice more than matches, but we are
happy with the schedule we have worked out for this season. We
participated in the World Championship and now we are here, this is good
for my partner to see where we stand and also to get to feel Beach
Volleyball at its very best”.
With their country still confronted by the effects of an unprecedented
crisis, Arvaniti and Karagkouni nevertheless acknowledge and praise the
support they are receiving from their people back home. “Last year we
qualified for the Olympics by covering all costs on our own but I am
happy that everything is running well this year. The Hellenic Volleyball
Federation is helping us the best they can. We maybe get less than some
years ago but still everything is well organized”.
One day “Vicky” will stop playing, so the question is does Beach
Volleyball have a future in Greece once she decides to retire from the
sport? “Greece has a very good tradition in Beach Volleyball and
especially the women have been very successful in the last 10 years.
Penny is a good partner and I know that if we work hard and stick
together we can make it to the next Olympics. However, it would be good
to have some back-up options, i.e. to at least have a second team
competing internationally because one day, sooner or later, I will also
stop” stresses Arvaniti. Always friendly and down-to-earth, “Vicky” is
certainly going to help Penny pursue and possibly achieve her Olympic
dream. However, before that, there is a European Championship to play;
on Tuesday with their victory on the centre court they already showed
that Vicky’s fourth partnership is another good one which is likely to
prolong an already outstanding career.
Greek girls down second-seeded pair of the tournament
They may have been playing together for only four months, but it looks like Vasiliki Arvaniti and Panagiota Karagkouni have already found a good chemistry and understanding. On Friday morning they opened the program of the 1/8 finals by edging the second-seeded pair of the European Championship, Sophie van Gestel and Madelein Meppelink of the Netherlands 21-17, 12-21, and 15-11.
“I absolutely have no words to express the way I feel” said Arvaniti after the game. “I knew we did stand a chance as the last three weeks things have gone extremely well for us. However, I did not expect that we could beat the Dutch girls for they have had a great season so far and they were among the top contenders for gold here in Klagenfurt”. Arvaniti and Karagkouni will play Germany’s top-seeded Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler for a spot in the semis after the 2010 European silver medallists cruised past Barbora Hermannova and Martina Bonnerova of the Czech Republic in the 1/8 finals (21-17, 21-15). “We just want to take it game by game and enjoy the moment” added Arvaniti. 20-year old Karagkouni was also overwhelmed with joy: “I just can’t believe we have beaten the Dutch girls and are in the 1/4 finals”.
Klagenfurt, Austria, August 3, 2013. On Saturday Austria’s Doris and Stefanie Schwaiger crowned their stellar home campaign winning gold at the 2013 CEV A1 Beach Volleyball European Championship Final presented by checkrobin.com. The Austrian siblings claimed a world-class final game edging Spain’s Liliana Fernandez and Elsa Baquerizo (21-15, 20-22, and 15-12) thereby becoming their country’s first European champions in 20 years since the competition was established in 1994. “We are absolutely thrilled” they said cheered by 8,000 fans who once more created the unique atmosphere that the sandbox in Klagenfurt is worldwide known for.
Going into the final match, Doris and Stefanie wanted to improve on what their compatriots Barbara Hansel and Sara Montagnolli had achieved two years ago in Kristiansand as they had settled for silver. On the other side of the net, Spain’s Liliana/Baquerizo were also likely to write history for they had already gone beyond last year’s bronze in The Hague, their country’s sole medal so far in the competition. The start of the final game was preceded by an aerobatics show while 8,000 Austrian supporters were waving their national flag for a breath-taking red-and-white choreography. Reinhard Fendrich sang what people here call Austria’s unofficial national anthem, “I am from Austria”, and everything was set for a great party as the loudspeakers did also play some excerpts of the “Blue Danube” waltz by Johan Strauss. So it was up to Stefanie and Doris to add the icing on the cake on what the fans had already christened “the best Saturday ever” with temperatures up to 40° in the capital of Carinthia, the world’s Beach Volleyball “Mecca”.
The Schwaiger sisters got off to a flying start (5:2) and slowly but surely widened their lead that reached 6 points by the time the score stood at 14:8. This margin was maintained all the way through with Elsa serving long to see the Austrian fans celebrate the provisional 1:0 lead for their heroines (21-15). The Spaniards finally found their way into the game starting out strong in the second set (7:3) and their lead was widened to five points (13:8) halfway through. The Schwaigers did not let it go too quickly and fired back to reduce the gap to the slimmest margin (17:16) before they finally drew level at 19 all. Liliana and Elsa did not lose composure and even though the failed to cash their first opportunity to call for the tie-break, they did not miss on the second and wrapped it up at 22-20. They stretched momentum to the early phases of the third set (2:0) but suddenly things turned around with Stefanie Schwaiger blocking regularly at the net (8:5) and that small cushion was maintained up to the end to fire up the party on the centre court for no Austrian pair had ever won in Klagenfurt before. That was a fabulous end of a campaign that had turned into an uphill climb for the Austrian siblings as on Tuesday they had lost their opening game in pool play to Russia’s Maria Prokopieva and Svetlana Popova before surviving to five match balls for Ekaterina Khomyakova and Evgenia Ukolova in the 1/4 finals.
Laura Ludwig added a sixth medal to her collection from the European Championship, this time alongside 23-year old Kira Walkenhorst. Ludwig has medalled uninterruptedly since she won silver in 2007, with the only exception being last year where she failed to make the semis in The Hague with long-time partner Sara Goller. After a very disappointing performance in the semi against the Schwaiger sisters, Ludwig and Walkenhorst regrouped and played a superb game to edge first-seeded Katrin Holtwick/Ilka Semmler 21-17, 21-18. “We were extremely disappointed but also angry after the semi-final for we simply had not found our way into the game” commented Ludwig after crowning her European campaign with bronze. “Of course the Schwaiger sisters played good but we simply did not stand a chance right from the start”. Kira Walkenhorst was more than happy with her first European medal: “After the semi-final we just went for a break and we did reset our minds completely. We found it difficult to find our way into the game and of course with thousands of fans on their side the Schwaiger sisters were extra motivated to play their best. We just decided to clean up our minds and pulled together again for we wanted to finish what has been a very good week for us with a medal. I am evidently overwhelmed with joy; I want to celebrate this bronze medal first and then will cheer from the stands on my brother Alexander who plays the 1/4 finals later this afternoon together with his partner Lars Flüggen”.
Actually the game did not start that good for Ludwig and Walkenhorst who trailed 4:8 in the opening set but then fought back to even the score at 11. They first went to the front at 14:13 as Ludwig displayed great actions in defence and finalized some good points to take her young partner by the hand and cruise all the way through the final 21-17. After a close opening phase (5:5), Ludwig and Walkenhorst dictated the tempo of the game also in the second set breaking away after the technical time-out (15:12) and standing a late comeback by their countrywomen who failed to claim their second European medal after winning silver three years ago in Berlin. This is Germany’s sixteenth medal since the women’s European Championship was introduced back in 1994, with Ludwig having chiefly contributed to this tally with two gold (2008 and 2010), plus two silver (2007, 2009) and two bronze (2011 and 2013) on her resume.