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Mexican duo shock Austrians to make history

Juan Virgen (right) and Lombardo Ontiveros are off the mark at the World Championships and are eyeing a place in the elimination rounds
Stare Jablonki, Poland, July 3, 2013 – Mexican pair Juan Virgen and Lombardo Ontiveros made history when they beat Robin Seidl and Alexander Huber at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships Mazury 2013 on Wednesday, their first victory in only their second match at the tournament.

Virgen and Ontiveros put Seidl and Huber on the backfoot early on with some aggressive play and held on to win the first set. In the second the Austrians fought back to draw level, but the Mexicans were quickly in the ascendancy in the tie-break, built an early lead and then won the match 2-1 (21-18, 7-21, 15-12) with a powerful spike from Virgen.

“It was a very difficult match,” Virgen said. “Seidl and Huber are very good players, they have good hands and we have been analysing their style of play since Rome. We were trying to concentrate as much as we could and because we knew them, we knew it wasn’t going to be an easy match.”

“We want to win as many matches as possible,” Ontiveros added. “Though we lost yesterday we still want to get through to the next round. If we win tomorrow I think we’ll be able to get into the first elimination round.”

The duo only started playing as a team this year and won two gold medals on the NORCECA Tour in North and Central America. They then played their first FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour grand slam together in Rome before they travelled to Poland. 

Even so, they stayed calm as one of the World Tour’s up and coming teams mounted a comeback to record a famous result.

“We always help one another and we won the first set, but we lost the second very easily,” Ontiveros said. “I just wanted to tell him to stay calm and that when it was one set-all, it doesn’t mean we’d lose the whole match and in the end we won.”

Australians set up clash with local favourites

Christopher McHugh and Isaac Kapa face the biggest test of their fledgling partnership when they set up a final pool match against local favourites Grzegorz Fijalek and Mariusz Prudel.

The Australians didn’t take long to beat Spain’s Inocencio Lario Carrillo and Javier Monfort Minaya 2-0 (21-17, 21-7). It is their second win in two at the World Championships and means that they top their pool narrowly from Poland’s Fijalek and Prudel, who have also won both fixtures. 

“Fijalek and Prudel are a great team,” McHugh said. “We are playing in a great stadium here in Stare Jablonki with great spectators, so we will see how it goes. 

“We are a new team and it is our first World Championships together and we had great success at the beginning. We are playing here day by day and trying to take it as far as we can.”

The Australians were in no mood to hang around against Lario and Monfort and were soon into their stride with Kapa taking charge at the net and McHugh sweeping up behind him to wrap the match up quickly.

It leaves them maximum time to prepare for the host nation’s number one team and a centre court hoping to roar them to victory and they are well aware that they will need to match their performance against Lario and Monfort if they are to send the crowd home disappointed.

“We played pretty well, were very physical and put a lot of energy into this match and that is why we could beat Spain fairly easily,” Kapa said. “The Polish are a good team and we will have to play very aggressively to beat them and put a lot of energy into the match.”

Learning from the master

Brazil’s Ricardo Santos began another campaign to add to his bulging collection of World Championships medals when he and new partner Alvaro Filho beat the Czech Republic’s Premysl Kubala and Petr Benes 2-0 (21-16, 22-20).

After a first set in which the Brazilian pair dominated, the Czechs fought their way back into the match, but couldn’t quite do enough to take the match to a tie-break. It means that Ricardo and Alvaro now have two wins from two and are building the momentum needed for Ricardo to add to the one gold medal and two silvers that he has from previous World Championships.

“For me playing with Ricardo is a dream,” Alvaro said. “Everyone wants to play with Ricardo, players like him are legends. For me it is my first year with him and he helps me a lot. 

“Playing with Ricardo improves my chances, because he has so many Olympics and World Championships behind him, so he helps me playing in tournament and gives me advice. We play one match each day and the pressure is really high, so we need to be really focused and play at the same level each match.”

The men’s competition continues on Thursday with another round of pool play. After the final round on Thursday 32 teams, the first and second ranked in each pool and the top eight third ranked teams, advance to the elimination phase. The semifinals and medal matches are scheduled for Sunday. The women’s competition is one day ahead and concludes on Saturday.

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