Clancy and Artacho del Solar take down Italy to stay unbeaten
Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar are through to the knockout stage of the Olympic beach volleyball tournament after winning their second pool match, defeating Italy’s Marta Menegatti and Viktoria Orsi-Toth in a hard fought 22-20 21-19 victory.
The Australians displayed poise under pressure, coming back from multiple point deficits in both sets to take the win.
With the top two teams from each pool automatically progressing, tonight’s win guarantees a top-2 pool finish and ensures the duo will contest the round of 16 knockout stages despite still having one pool match to play.
The 17th seeded Italians looked threatening early on in the first set, opening up a 4-point lead on 8-12. Australia came out of the technical timeout with renewed strength and went on to score seven consecutive points on Artacho’s serve. Two aces in a row from Menegatti restored parity on 18-18, but a block by Clancy converted the second set point for Australia on 22-20.
Italy started strongly in the second, with their strong serve challenging the Australians. Clancy put Australia back in front midway through the set, but it was Artacho’s serve that once again changed the momentum of the set.
Menegatti and Orsi-Toth were able to save four match points, but they eventually had to concede set and match on 19-21.
Clancy said that even though they were tested by Italy, they never doubted their ability to take the win.
“For us it was never in doubt,” Clancy said. “It was really tough conditions which were really good for serving, so we knew we had to stay patient. It was tough, but in my heart I knew we were going to pull out the win.
“We’re feeling really good right now. We had two days off, so we had to regain composure and restart and I think we did a really good job at that. There were a few moments when we were tested, but we stuck together really strongly as a team.”
Artacho del Solar was happy to come out of the game with their unbeaten record intact.
“We knew the girls were going to come out fighting,” Artacho said. “They’re a great team, we knew it wasn’t going to be perfect, but a win is a win.
“We’re super excited, but we’re trying to go game by game, really trying to stay in the moment and keep our focus. We’re taking each game at a time because they are so far apart. But we came here to win and our goal has never changed.”
“It’s a very unique and special relationship that T and I have. It’s not easy to find it in any partnership and I reckon it’s one of our strengths. We are both on the same page, we’re strong for each other. We feel each other, it’s really easy to connect out there and it’s just so much fun doing this with T.”
At her second Olympic campaign, Clancy said the empty stadiums at Shiokaze Park did make for a different environment compared to Rio.
“Crowds do bring that extra level of adrenaline, but I think it’s actually holding athletes’ nerves a bit more without all the screaming and yelling. Of course I miss the crowds, but we’re Olympic athletes – we like the big stage, but as soon as we step onto the court, you just zone out and get on with the job.”
The win qualifies Australia for the round of 16 with one match still to play in the preliminary pool. Clancy and Artacho del Solar will be back on the sand at Shiokaze Park on Friday at 4pm AEST, trying to extend their winning streak in a table-topping contest against Russian Olympic Committee representatives Nadezda Makroguzova and Svetlana Kholomina.