Puerto Rico and Paraguay girls into last 16 at the U19 World Championships
Puerto Ricans Valeria Cajigas/Lina Bernier finished second in the pool after their third win in the final pool match against Australia’s Bell/Kendall (23-21, 21-14). In the afternoon they also defeated Ukraine’s Udovenko/Lysenko (21-19, 21-18) in the first elimination round.
“It feels great”, said 17-year old Bernier. “We’re passing to the second round. That’s awesome. It’s the farthest we came so far.”
The last 16 is the best finish for Puerto Rico girls in an age group event. And individually for Bernier, who’s best result was 31st at the U23, and first timer Cajigas as well.
They are very proud to have reached the second round in a field with strong and tall teams from established beach volleyball nations.
“It is really hard for us here, there are a lot of big teams and we are a really short team. I am short for a blocker, she is short for a hitter”, Bernier said. “It has been tough but we have been able to control the ball better and that is why we are here.”
The South-American teams are doing well lately in the age group events. In the boy’s competition of the U19 World Championships teams from Venezuela and Argentina topped their pool on Friday.
“Maybe because we now come better prepared”, said Bernier about this success. “In beach volleyball in America right now, not USA or Brazil, but definitely the rest of the continent it’s still growing. It’s basically in diapers. We are now seeing more players and programmes that are developing.”
On Saturday Swiss team Esther Rohrer/Dunja Gerson awaits them in the second round. Bernier: “We think Switzerland is a really good team, but we can take them with our strategy and our type of game. I know we can do a great job and take that game.”
Michelle and Erika ease into second round
Michelle Valiente and Erika Mongelos of Paraguay also won their final pool game, 2-0 (21-6, 21-5) against Namibia’s Palmhert/Seebach and defeated France’s Placette/Richard (21-10, 21-19) in the first round.
Michelle is the more experienced player in the Paraguayan team. She made her debut at the World Championships at the age of 15 last year. Her partner in Stare Jablonki, Pati, is now her coach. The 17-year old Erika played her first FIVB event last week in Cyprus, where the pair finished 17th.
“We played well there”, said Michelle. “But it wasn’t as well as we wanted. So for us it is very good to be able to pass through this phase and into the next one.”
Namibia was easy, but France proved to be a tougher opponent. “We entered the match with no pressure, relaxed and we just played like we use to”, said Michelle. “The first set was easier for us, but then the French girls stepped up and made our lives harder. But in the end we gained strength and we won the match finally.”
In the second round on Saturday they face Adamcikova/Valkova from the Czech Republic. “We want to focus one game at a time and the next step will be tomorrow’s game which will be the hardest. But we will go just as relaxed and with the same peace of mind and do the best that we can to get good results.”