Marta Menegatti and Valentina Gottardi entered this week’s Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Saquarema Challenge, in Brazil, determined to display consistent progress after finishing fourth at the Tepic Elite16 a few weeks ago. The two achieved their goal in great fashion and won their first title as partners at the tournament held at the Campo de Aviação on Sunday.
Menegatti and Gottardi victorious at Saquarema Challenge
The Italians come back to secure their first title as partners in Brazil
Publicado 11:05, 16 Apr 2023
The third-seeded Italians were pushed hard by Brazilians Tainá Bigi and Victoria Lopes and had to avoid three match points on set two, but came from behind to win the gold medal match in Saquarema 2-1 (18-21, 25-23, 15-11). Brazilians Andressa Cavalcanti and Vitória Rodrigues also made it to the podium in third place.
Partners since the end of 2021, Menegatti and Gottardi had won three medals on the Beach Pro Tour in 2022, their first full season as partners, taking silver at the Madrid and Lecce Futures and bronze at the Agadir Challenge.
“This victory means a lot to us,” Menegatti said. “We were fourth at the Tepic Elite16 and our goal here was to improve from the ninth-place finish we had at the La Paz Challenge. I think the key was staying patient during the entire match. We trusted each other a lot, were always aggressive and kept the focus on our side and that’s how we managed to come back on the second set.”
The victory in Saquarema took the 32-year-old Menegatti, a three-time Olympian, back to the top of the podium at the international level after five years as her last triumphed had happened in 2018, when she won an FIVB World Tour two-star event in Agadir. It was also the first victory for the 20-year-old Gottardi, who has played in only 14 international tournaments in her career so far.
Their first title also came in a special place for Menegatti, who is deeply connected with the Brazilian culture and even speaks fluent Portuguese.
“I love playing in Brazil, it really feels like a second home to me,” the Italian explained. “I love the people and the energy in the stadium was amazing. Every time I come to Brazil, I feel the love of the people and it’s always very nice to be here.”
The Brazilians started the match on fire and got an early 3-0 lead with an ace from Victoria. After a few Italian errors, the home team was ahead 7-2, forcing the Europeans to call a timeout. The break worked in their favor as Menegatti and Gottardi found a better rhythm and limited their mistakes, bringing the Brazilian lead down to two points at 12-10. Another ace from Victoria gave the South Americans breathing room at 15-11 and, although the Italians made a strong push at the end, Tainá scored on a tip to end it 21-18.
The Italians had control at the start of the second set and quickly created a 9-5 lead following an error from Victoria. Fueled by back-to-back blocks from Tainá, the Brazilians had a good run to take the lead at 11-10, when Gottardi was called for a set. A trickle ace from the Italian blocker helped the Europeans regain the lead at 12-11, but the Brazilians responded immediately and Tainá won a joust at the net to score 13-12. After a few lead changes near the end, the Italians saved three match points and won the set 25-23 when Gottardi converted on a transition play.
The Italians carried the good momentum into the start of the third set and benefited from a couple of Brazilian errors to jump ahead 3-0. After a strong defensive play from Menegatti and a big block from Gottardi, the Europeans increased their lead to 7-2. Two ballhandling mistakes from Gottardi gave the Brazilians new life, reducing their advantage to two points (7-5), but the Italians remained in control until the end and secured the title when Gottardi hit the line to score 15-11.
Andressa, 26, and Vitória, 23, gave the host country a second medal in Saquarema with their 2-1 (19-21, 21-12, 15-9) victory over Lithuanian qualifiers Monika Paulikiene and Aine Raupelyte in the bronze medal match.
The top-seeded Brazilians also confirmed their strength when playing at home as they won their fourth Beach Pro Tour medal and the third in their country, adding to a bronze at last year’s Itapema Challenge and silver at the 2022 Uberlândia Elite16 – the two also won bronze at the Espinho Challenge last season.
“We’re very happy with this bronze medal,” Vitória commented. “It’s our third bronze at this level and it means a lot to us. We wanted to play in the final here, but it’s great to get on the podium with my family here.”
The Beach Pro Tour will have a third event in Brazil in just ten days, with Uberlândia hosting an Elite16 tournament from April 26-30. Before that, there will be a Futures event in Satun, Thailand, from April 20-23.