Clancy and Artacho del Solar through to the knockout stage despite defeat
Australian beach volleyballers Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar could not keep their perfect record intact as they were defeated by Russian Olympic Committee’s representatives Nadezda Makroguzova and Svetlana Kholomina in three sets at Shiokaze Park (8-21, 21-15, 12-15).
It’s the first loss for Australia, who still qualify through to the round of 16 of the women’s draw as second in pool E behind ROC.
With both Australia and ROC entering the match without dropping a set so far in Tokyo a hard fought matchup was guaranteed.
Stormclouds overhead and thunder rolling throughout the match set a more ominous mood than beach volleyball’s normal party atmosphere.
The Australian duo showed flashes of their brilliant best, predominantly in a great run to build a 6-point advantage in the second set, but couldn’t maintain that momentum thorughout all three sets.
ROC took the lead in the first set, moving the ball across the court and mounting pressure from the service line. Makroguzova opened up a 5-0 run with two consecutive aces and her dominant net presence was a major factor in Clancy and Artacho dropping their first set of this Olympic campaign.
The Australians reset brilliantly to shake off the tough set, playing with more confidence and progressively taking control of the set to force the decider. Taking a slender 11-10 lead into the technical timeout (at the 21-point end change), the pair opened up a 6-point advnatage off the back of strong serving and big swinging to take the second 21-15.
ROC jumped to an early lead in the decider, rushing to 4-1 advantage which the Australians were unable to claw back. Australia fought bravely in the tie-break and saved two match points before conceding defeat 12-15.
Clancy and Artacho kept a positive outlook after the match, happy to have qualified through to the next round and have taken another step forward in their quest for the podium.
“We’re obviously not fully satisfied with our performance, but we know that our best is still yet to come,” Clancy said.
“We can’t be disappointed, we’re on to the next round, that’s what we’re here for.
“It doesn’t matter if you have a perfect run. It’s not about being perfect and we don’t need to be perfect to beat all these teams. This knockout stage is where the tournament really starts and it gets really exciting. So we look forward into the future and just can’t wait to find out who we match up with next.”
“We started well and gave ourselves another chance to still be in the tournament,” Artacho added.
“We’re just going to dust ourselves off, turn the page and move forward. Like T said, this is where the tournament really begins,” she said.
Clancy and Artacho del Solar will know their round-of-16 opponents late on Saturday, with the beach volleyball knockout-round draws to be held at the end of the ‘lucky loser’ qualifying matches. The knockout rounds starting Sunday 1 August.
The loss did not shake Clancy and Artacho’s self-belief, as the best Australian pair keep chasing an Olympic medal to follow up on their bronze at the 2019 World Championships.
“We’re still confident in our game and in what we’re capable of doing. This is just a little hiccup, it happens in a tournament – our focus hasn’t changed,” Artacho said.