2018-05-03 11:00:00 CET

The Romanian pioneers

Members of the first team of the country to compete in the World Tour, Vaida and Matei have huge aspirations

Vaida and Matei are displaying consistent progress in the international scene (Photocredit: FIVB)Vaida and Matei are displaying consistent progress in the international scene (Photocredit: FIVB)

When they competed in the 2016 Klagenfurt Major, Adriana-Maria Matei and Beata Vaida made history. The young Romanians didn’t progress from the qualifier in the famous Austrian tournament, but they didn’t have to. After all, it was the first time a team from their country ever stepped their feet in the beach volleyball World Tour.

Less than two years later, Adriana, 19, and Beata, 20, might be the forefront on a revolution on Romanian beach volleyball. The country, which had no tradition at all in the sport, is going through a transformation as beach volleyball becomes more and more popular, especially among younger players.

“I’d say we’re the pioneers of this sport in Romania,” Vaida told us. “Our trajectory is ascending and beach volleyball is becoming a phenomenon there. Around 200 teams competed in the last Junior National Championships and the Club Municipality Bucharest, which we play for, is building an indoor arena so teams can train during the winter, which I think will attract even more people.”

After only two seasons competing internationally, Adriana and Beata already have some results to be proud of. The duo, which finished fifth in the 2016 Under-21 World Championships, has enjoyed some success in European Challenger and Satellite tournaments, having finished in the top-10 in each of the five events they competed in last year, with gold and silver medals won in Cyprus and Slovenia respectively.

First place here in Larnaka ✌🏐❤🙏 #cev #satellitebeach #beachvolleyball #fight #team #gold🥇 #champagne 🍾

352 Likes, 31 Comments - Adriana Matei (@adriana_matei) on Instagram: "First place here in Larnaka ✌🏐❤🙏 #cev #satellitebeach #beachvolleyball #fight #team #gold🥇..."

The two form the only professional beach volleyball team of the country, but the fact that they are exploring uncharted territory has never been a constraint for them.

“I always saw it as an opportunity, it’s good to be the first in something,” Matei added. “The results we achieved in these first two years give us confidence and make us think that we can do much more. They were also important because people started talking about us and that’s how we get financial support. We received some interview requests and the media started writing about our achievements and that was very helpful.”

The duo, however, is actually a trio, as their coach, Adrian Pricop, was the responsible for the start of their beach career. Adriana and Beata both played indoor volleyball in their country, but when the team they played for was struggling financially, a new possibility emerged.

Pricop, a former beach volleyball player himself, suggested them to transition to the sands and try to make their career in a sport that is considered only a summer hobby by most of their fellow countryman.

“He believed we could play beach volleyball,” Matei recalled. “The start was hard because no one wanted to invest money on something so uncertain, but Adrian found some sponsors that helped us so much. And my family was also very supportive, they always trusted me and encouraged me.”

#balkanchampionship2016 #secondplace #team #ROMANIA

115 Likes, 8 Comments - Adriana Matei (@adriana_matei) on Instagram: "#balkanchampionship2016 #secondplace #team #ROMANIA"

In 2018, the Romanian team retuned to the Beach Major Series as Adriana and Beata competed in the Fort Lauderdale Major in February. As is Klagenfurt, they didn’t advance from the qualifier, but again it wasn’t the most important thing for them.

The young Romanians flew to Florida several weeks before the tournament and the lessons they learned in their first training camp outside Europe were the most valuable part of the experience.

“It was the best camp we’ve ever taken part,” Vaida remarked. “It was a great opportunity for us to evaluate where we are doing well and where we need to improve, so I think it will have a big impact in our future.”

Girls just wanna have sun 🌞🌴🌊🕶 #bikinilife #beach #afterpractice #firstphoto😂

176 Likes, 1 Comments - Adriana Matei (@adriana_matei) on Instagram: "Girls just wanna have sun 🌞🌴🌊🕶 #bikinilife #beach #afterpractice #firstphoto😂"

Their dedication to the sport and the willingness of overcoming all the barriers that cross their ways are a consequence of their ambitious goals. Despite of being one of the youngest teams in the World Tour, the Romanians are confident they can compete among the best.

Being the first team of their country to compete in the World Tour is not enough for them, they want to shine in the bigger stages.

“My personal dream is go to the Olympics in Tokyo,” Matei told us. “I want to win a medal and hopefully become a world champion one day. If you don’t have ambitions goals, you have nothing.”

For the Olympics, the Romanians could even considering switching surfaces. Last year, they competed in a pair of snow beach volleyball tournaments of the European Tour in Turkey and won both. The success in the sport could serve as an alternative for them in the future.

“We were in Antalya for a training camp and one of our friends there was organizing these events,” Vaida recalled. “We thought it would be a good idea to play as we’d spend some days in the mountains, in a high altitude. It was really fun playing in different conditions and maybe this experience will make us think about the Winter Olympics in the future, who knows?”

What is coming is better than what is gone . #cev #snowvolleyball ✌❄ #toomuchsnow 🙉

215 Likes, 1 Comments - Adriana Matei (@adriana_matei) on Instagram: "What is coming is better than what is gone . #cev #snowvolleyball ✌❄ #toomuchsnow 🙉"

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