2017-09-27 10:30:00 CET
We profile three women’s teams to keep an eye on next season
The sand has only just settled on an unforgettable 2017 season but attention is quickly turning towards the 2018 season.
Yes, we know it seems a long time off but after a summer that saw scorching temperatures at the World Championships and thousands of fans cheering on their heroes, we can’t help ourselves dreaming about sun, sea, sand and spikes next year.
With the FIVB World Ranking for 2017 now complete following the Swatch Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour Finals in Hamburg, we take a look at some of women’s teams that could soon be familiar names on the Swatch Major Series.
Miki Ishii and Megumi Murakami (Japan)
With the Tokyo Olympics creeping ever nearer, the more important it becomes for host nation Japan to supply the home fans with a team to be proud of.
In Miki, 27, and 31-year-old Megumi they might have the answer. The duo joined forces this season, playing in five tournaments on the World Tour and walked away with a first gold medal in the one-star event in Daegu, Korea in July. That came after a ninth and a fifth finish in competitions in China.
They ended the season with 720 ranking points, just missing out on a place in the top 40 but were the top ranked Japanese team on the tour. Their form towards the end gives them hope for an even better 2018 season.
Ieva Dumbauskaite and Monika Povilaityte (Lithuania)
Another team just outside the world’s top 40 teams who have shown their potential on the World Tour this season were young Lithuanians Ieva and Monika. The two 23-year-olds might have only competed in four events but they ended the season with two bronze medals in their pockets.
Their first third place came in the Tangshan Jiangning tournament in June and they replicated that feat a week later when winning bronze also in China, in Nantong.
After their exploits in China, the European pair raced to take part in the Gstaad Major but could not make the main draw as they were beaten in a three-set thriller by Thailand’s Hongpak/Numwong.
Having won World and European Youth gold medals together in 2012, the pair will now be eyeing further improvement next season.
Betsi Flint and Kelley Larsen (USA)
There won’t be many teams in beach volleyball history to have a World Tour record of two gold medals from just two tournaments in one season, but that’s what Americans Betsi and Kelley achieved in 2017.
The two 25-year-olds stood on top of the podium in both of the tournaments they entered on the World Tour in the season just gone.
What’s more the pair enjoyed a completely unblemished record, winning all nine matches they played without dropping a set. First came their triumph in Tangshan Jiangning, China, before they made it back-to-back golds with success in Ulsan, Kora in July.
The duo, who became the youngest team to win an AVP event in September 2015 when they claimed top spot in Cincinnati, also secured three medals from seven tournaments on the American tour this year.
Their next step is surely a spot in the Swatch Major Series – but they already face stiff competition from the likes of rising stars Sara Hughes and Kelly Claes as well as a host of experienced American teams including April Ross and Lauren Fendrick who took World Champs silver in Vienna.