Brazil continues to dominate FIVB beach world tour play.

At the FIVB Rio Open on Sunday, as the men’s team of Alison Cerutti and Bruno Oscar Schmidt and the women’s pair of Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda Lisboa stood atop the podium with respective $20,000 checks.

Earlier Sunday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Americans Theo Brunner and Casey Patterson were eliminated in the semifinals by Cerutti and Schmidt and then lost in the bronze-medal match to Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo of Italy to finish fourth.

The men’s gold-medal match featured hometown favorites Cerutti and Schmitt, seeded second, against Poland’s sixth-seeded Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak. The Poles tested the Brazilians in the first set, but ultimately settled for silver in a 25-23, 21-12 40-minute match.

Cerutti and Schmitt went 6-0 in Rio, re-establishing their dominance after a fifth-place finish in February at the FIVB Fort Lauderdale tournament.

Poland ran a diverse offense, with quick sets to the antenna as well as to the middle to keep Cerutti off balance. Brazil chipped away at Poland by scoring on a hitting error for 10-8 and a Cerutti block for 12-9. Losiak was awarded an ace on a controversial call that was so close that it was still disputed after video replay. After plenty of discussion amid Brazilian boos, Schmidt’s cut shot fell into the net for a 13-13 tie.

After four consecutive ties, Cerutti spiked a ball that was called out, although the video challenge showed that the ball was in, according to Cerutti, Schmitt, and several thousand Brazilian fans. Despite much discussion and a yellow card, the point was awarded to Bartosz and Losiak for a 19-17 lead.

Down 20-18, Poland missed a serve and Cerutti followed with a straight down stuff of Losiak to stay alive at 20-all.

After four set points for Poland, Cerutti threw down a Losiak line shot, followed by Losiak pounding an angle spike a foot out to give the set to Brazil 25-23.

In set two, Brazil broke the game open at 8-6 after a Cerutti block, a Losiak hitting error, a Cerutti block on a shoot set out to the antenna, a shanked pass, and a Schmitt dig that was transitioned by Cerutti to reach 13-6.

The Brazilians would go on to close out the match on a missed Losiak crosscourt spike for gold 21-12.

“The Polish are a tough team to play,” Bruno said in a FIVB interview. “It has been a good week for us after starting the season slowly in the United States.  We started getting our act together once we returned to the Brazilian tour and played our best this week against the world’s elite teams.”

Agatha Bednarczuk celebrates a gold medal for Brazil/FIVB photo

In the women’s gold-medal match, fourth-seeded Brazilians Bednarczuk and Duda needed 50 minutes and three sets to beat Canada’s Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes, the 11th seed, 21-14, 13-21, 15-13.

The win betters their second-place Fort Lauderdale finish and serves further notice that the 18-year-old Duda is a major contender.

Brazil took set one 21-14 behind Bednarczuk’s metronome-like consistency, frustrating Canada’s defenses.

In set two Canada blocked and served more aggressively, as Canada finally pulled away for a 9-7 lead on tough serving by Humana-Paredes. A Pavan block and service ace gave Canada a 15-10 lead, and closed on set two on a Pavan ace 21-13.

Set three was a see-saw affair, as Brazil went up 4-2 on Bednarczuk’s tough middle serve, and an inside-out high line shot in transition.  A later Bednarczuk block of Pavan on a tight set gave Brazil a 7-4 lead, forcing a Canadian time-out.

Out of the time-out, Canada went on a five-point run, with a Canadian first-ball sideout, Bednarczuk missed the court on a cut shot, Humana-Paredes scored on an aggressive serve, a Humana-Paredes cut shot in transition, and a Pavan angle block, advantage Canada 9-7.

Brazil immediately responded, as Canada missed its serve and Lisboa dug for 9-9. Battling point for point with the score tied at 11 all, 12 all, and 13 all, a Bednarczuk sideout and a blocked out-of-system trap set meant Brazilian gold.

“I am excited for our team as our expectations are high for each event,” said Bednarczuk in a FIVB interview. “Duda is an amazing talent and our partnership continues to improve with each match.” added Agatha, who captured the silver medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games with Barbara Seixas.  “She is only 18 and the sky is the limit for her.  So far, so good.  Each event is different, so the key is playing consistently well with very few mistakes.”

The USA’s Theo Brunner gets across the net to block Italy’s Daniele Lupo/FIVB photo

In the bronze-medal men’s match, ninth-seeded Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo of Italy won in three sets 21-15, 24-26, 15-11. Patterson and Brunner, seeded 13th, were plagued by service receive issues in set one, spending much of the time out of system. Nicolai, one of the world’s top blockers, and Lupo, a top defender took set one in a routine 21-15 score.

Set two was a taut affair, as no team had more than a three point lead throughout the set. Both teams sided out like clockwork to nine all. The Americans generated a bit of space to a 13-10 lead on a pair of consecutive digs of Lupo shots for 11-9, and later a third dig that Brunner put over on two for 13-10. 

Italy came back to 13-all after a Patterson spike fell wide, followed by a Nicolai block. An errant pass followed by a cut shot by Patterson that fell into the net gave the Italians an 18-16 advantage.

The USA knotted the score at 19-19 after Brunner stuffed a Lupo line spike. Although each team had three set points, the Americans closed it out on a trap set by Nicolai that caused a Brunner block and Lupo net for a 26-24 USA win.

The third set began as closely as the second, with both teams going toe to toe until 6-6. The Americans then cracked bit by bit, as Nicolai hit an ace for 7-6, Patterson made an uncharacteristic hitting error for 8-6, Nicolai blocked Brunner for 11-8, and Patterson hit long on an out of rhythm set for 14-11.

Lupo put away the match on the Italians’ first swing, hitting off the top of the Brunner block for bronze.

Marketa Slukova and Barbora Hermannova celebrate their first podium finish in 27 attempts/FIVB photo

In the women’s bronze medal match, No. 7-seeded Barbora Hermannova and Marketa Slukova of the Czech Republic earned their first FIVB podium finish, downing No. 5 hometown Brazilians Fernanda Alves and Barbara Seixas. The 23-21, 21-18 straight set win was not only their first medal in 27 attempts together, but the first for the Czech Republic in both the men’s and women’s draw.

Brazil controlled most of set one, jumping off to a 16-12 lead. The Czechs responded with a run of their own, reaching 16-all on a first ball Hermannova sideout, a deep middle ace by Slukova, a transition line swing by Slukova, and a block by Hermannova. The Czechs were finally able to close the door on the first set with a Hermannova block on tight set for 23-21.

In the second set, the Czechs led nearly wire to wire, with leads of 7-5, 11-8, 15-10, 17-11, and 19-15. Slukova finished the match on an angle spike that found Brazilian sand off Alves’ block.

Match 53: Piotr Kantor/Bartosz Losiak Poland (6) def. Daniele Lupo/Paolo Nicolai Italy (9) 21-19, 21-19 (0:38)
Match 54: Alison Cerutti/Bruno Oscar Schmidt Brazil (2) def. Theo Brunner/Casey Patterson United States (13) 21-16, 21-14 (0:33)
Match 55: Daniele Lupo/Paolo Nicolai Italy (9) def. Theo Brunner/Casey Patterson United States (13) 21-15, 24-26, 15-11 (0:46)
Match 56: Alison Cerutti/Bruno Oscar Schmidt Brazil (2) def. Piotr Kantor/Bartosz Losiak Poland (6) 25-23, 21-12 (0:40)
Match 53: Melissa Humana-Paredes/Sarah Pavan Canada (11) def. Barbora Hermannova/Marketa Slukova Czech Republic (7) 21-19, 21-19 (0:40)
Match 54: Agatha Bednarczuk/Eduarda “Duda” Lisboa Brazil (4) def. Fernanda Alves/Barbara Seixas Brazil (5) 21-23, 21-15, 15-7 (0:57)
Match 55: Barbora Hermannova/Marketa Slukova Czech Republic (7) def. Fernanda Alves/Barbara Seixas Brazil (5) 23-21, 21-18 (0:46)
Match 56: Agatha Bednarczuk/Eduarda “Duda” Lisboa Brazil (4) def. Melissa Humana-Paredes/Sarah Pavan Canada (11) 21-14, 13-21, 15-13 (0:50)

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