Aida Etxebarria / Nerea Izagirre from Spain and Jasper Bouter / Jannes Van der Ham from the Netherlands conquered the champion’s titles of the inaugural 2014 WEVZA U21 Beach Volleyball Championships organized by the Portuguese Volleyball Federation, held at Praia da Ribeira in Albufeira do Azibo, Macedo de Cavaleiros.

Aida / Nerea did not lose any matches in the tournament that was highlighted by the high level of competition and quality both at sportive and organizational level.  To reach the gold medal they won the final against the Portuguese team of Vanessa Paquete / Daniela Silva by 2:1 (15-21, 22-20, 15-7).

“We are very happy with the first place in the tournament and with our performance and pleased to be the first champions in this WEVZA championship.  The Portuguese team is very good, difficult to play against and complicated very much our match in the final, but we did not give up and were rewarded with the victory.  The level of competition is good and the teams very balanced.  We enjoyed very much to play at this first WEVZA U21 Championship, even more at a location with these natural conditions.”

Pedro Carvalho, coach of the Portuguese team Paquete / Silva, highlighted:  “Despite the defeat, we have to be pleased with our performance.  Vanessa and Dani played a good match.  We had the opportunity to close the second set in our advantage, but made errors and failed.  We are sad with the defeat, but the balance is positive.  We were the only team that was close to win against this Spanish pair, but they were stronger and we have to congratulate them for the victory.  The players gain a lot of experience in this kind of tournaments.  It was very good that the event was hosted here, in Albufeira do Azibo that does not have much tradition in volleyball, but presents already an audience very interested in our sport.  The venue is magnificent and we had the support from the people.”

In the men’s final, Jasper Bouter / Jannes Van der Ham won by 2:0 (24-22, 21-13) against the Portuguese duo Diogo Maia / Tomas Silva.  These two teams will play at the 2014 CEV U20 Beach Volleyball European Championship to be held in Italy from September 4 through 7.

“It was a difficult, but sweet, win because obviously the spectators were cheering for the Portuguese team.  It was the best way to end this tournament and it is going to leave me with good memories of this play.  In addition, the lake is very pleasant and the people are all very nice.  I have enjoyed being here very much and, apart from the title, it was an excellent preparation for the U20 European Championship,” said Jannes.

“The semifinal was very difficult and physically hard.  We were very tired, and thus we were unable to give our best, but we felt that we did not disappoint the crowd with our commitment to the match and that was the most important,” Diogo and Tomas commented.  “The next competition is the U20 European Championship and we will have the advantage of the analysis of our performance in this tournament, mainly in the final match.  It is hard to say if the gold medal was well delivered, because of our exhibition yesterday against this same team, and the way we had played made us believe that we could have won the tournament.  We think that today the tiredness was equal for both teams, but they are taller and used that advantage well.  Congratulations because they demonstrated competence.  We would like to have won the tournament, but our goal was to take advantage of this experience at a quite reasonable competition level to prepare for the participation in the European Championship and we believe that this analysis will be very helpful for the work we are developing with our technical staff.”

Loladina Zwaanswijk / Marly Bak from the Netherlands reached the women’s bronze medal winning the third place match by 2:1 (17-21, 21-18, 15-9) against the Portuguese Margarida Reis / Maria Tinoco.

“We are happy with the third place, even though we consider that we could have done better in the semifinal match lost by 1:2 to the Spaniards.  These tournaments are very good to prepare for competitions such as European or World Championships since the level of the players is significant. We love the venue, which is very beautiful, and the people are very nice and welcoming.  The organization of the tournament has also to be congratulated, everything is impeccable,” highlighted Loladina and Marly.

In the men’s event, Javier Huerta / Hugo Rojas from Spain defeated the Portuguese team of Jose Jardim / Bernardo Leite by 2:0 (25-23, 22-20) to claim the bronze.

“We cannot be happy with the third place.  It is true that this is an U21 tournament and we are 19 years old and that the level of the teams at the event is high, but we wanted more.  We came with that in mind and entered the tournament very well…  It is too bad, but this tournament served also to analyze and correct our errors.  Apart from that, all was great, since Azibo is truly amazing and it is a proof that beach volleyball events do not need to always be on beaches all alike.  This one is different and we have here all that is necessary for the success of a competition,” Javier and Hugo pointed out.

Felipe Pascual, the Competition Director, was satisfied with the course of the first WEVZA U21 Championship.  The Spanard highlighted the keys points of this kind of competition, its most sensitive aspects in terms of competition and the repercussion that it may have in the future of beach volleyball on the Old Continent.

“The balance is very positive.  It is the first time that WEVZA hosts a competition for this age group.  It is very interesting since it allows the teams to prepare for the intensive work that is being developed by the 8 countries from WEVZA, and equally for events such as the under-age European and World Championships,” Pascual said.  “The athletes are very pleased and expressed already their satisfaction, since there are many countries that have difficulties in competing frequently at the highest level and these WEVZA tournaments, played by European teams already with some certain experience allows for interesting matches, providing the necessary experience to take a qualitative leap.  This first edition is staged in this beautiful region of Macedo de Cavaleiros and I believe that it will have similar success in other WEVZA countries.  We have to be ambassadors of optimism in what regards the future of this competition either to WEVZA or the European Volleyball Confederation itself.  What impressed me the most, was the experience of all the people involved in the organization.  Everybody was incredible and that immediately translates into the satisfaction of the players and the quality of the organization.  For me it feels like I am at home.”