The Italians were fourth in the last Elite16 tournament and will try to continue going up in Brazil

After their fourth-place finish at last month’s Tepic Elite16, Italians Marta Menegatti and Valentina Gottardi will be seen by many as one of the favorites in this week’s Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Challenge event in Saquarema, Brazil.

The Europeans, however, prefer not to deal with any sort of added pressure heading into this week’s tournament, which will be played from Thursday to Sunday at the Campo de Aviação, and will continue with their patient and cautious approach.

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After their semifinal appearance in Mexico, the Italians sat out of last week’s Itapema Challenge, but are now ready to get back on the court and, besides Saquarema, will also take part in the Uberlândia Elite16, which will be held in Brazil as well, at the end of the month.

“Our confidence has obviously become stronger after our result in Tepic, but now, more than ever, is when we need to stay humble and continue working hard,” Menegatti told Volleyball World. “I think the biggest thing for us now is being consistent and having steady progress. We’re pumped for these events in Brazil and I’m sure we’re going to give our absolute best on the court.”

Regardless of their plans, it’s undeniable that the 32-year-old Menegatti and the 20-year-old Gottardi return to the Beach Pro Tour on a high after their impressive campaign in Tepic, which saw them start in the qualifier and win six of their first seven matches after falling in the semifinals to secure their best finish in an Elite16 tournament.

The Italians displayed impressive progress in comparison to the week before, when they had to settle for ninth after they got a single win in three matches at the La Paz Challenge, and hopefully set the ground for the steady improvement they are looking for.

“We had our ups and downs during the two events in Mexico, but we stuck together and that’s how we made it to the semifinals in Tepic,” Menegatti added. “I think La Paz was more like breaking the ice for us as we hadn’t played in a long time and things didn’t go the way we planned. We had a lot of big battles in Tepic starting from the qualifier and our concentration was key for us to trust each other in the difficult moments. I’m very proud of the team because we showed a lot of fight and determination.”


The Italians are the third-seeded team in the Saquarema main draw and will play on Friday

The excellent Italian campaign in Tepic was also heavily influenced by the strong play of Gottardi, who was the tournament’s top scored with 198 points while also leading in kills (138), blocks (31) and aces (29).

The young blocker, who first appeared on the international scene during the 2021 FIVB World Tour Finals, when she was only 18, is apparently starting to reach the potential that was always evident in her game.

“I have nothing but great things to say about Vale,” Menegatti explained. “She’s an absolutely talented player and I’m amazed by her competitive mentality. She’s still learning so much and I’m really grateful for the opportunity of sharing my experience with her and supporting her as she reaches her full potential.”

Playing in Brazil is always special for Menegatti, who developed a strong connection with the country more than a decade ago and feels at home when in the South American nation. The Italian has learned Portuguese and has built a sizeable fanbase in the country over the years.

“I’m very passionate about Brazil,” she said. “I had a Brazilian coach (Lissandro Carvalho) several years ago and when he first brought us to a training camp in Rio de Janeiro, I was so fascinated by the culture, the language and the traditions that I decided to learn Portuguese on my own. I believe it’s really hard not to fall in love with both the country and its people.”