CKU BRA-BRA 020

Prior to Sunday’s finals of the Gstaad Elite16, Ana Patricia Ramos did, in fact, recall the last time she and Eduarda 'Duda' Santos Lisboa lost a set. It came more than a month ago, in the second match of the World Championships, against Austria’s Lena Plesiutschnig and Katharina Schutzenhofer, and the Brazilians responded with a 15-11 win in the third set.

That was 11 matches ago.

Since then? They’ve gone on a run as dominant as the beach volleyball world has seen since perhaps the Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings era. They won the next six matches of the World Championships, including the final, over Sophie Bukovec and Brandie Wilkerson, to claim their first gold medal of the season. A month later, in Gstaad, they resumed their dominance, winning another six consecutive matches with only a single set dropped, in the gold medal match to fellow Brazilians Barbara and Carol, in an eventual 21-19, 20-22, 15-10 victory.

With Cowbell in hand, Duda and Ana Patricia have now won 15 straight matches, and are 24-3 on the season, their first as partners. It's the first time a team has won two consecutive gold medals since Kelly Claes -- now Kelly Cheng -- and Sarah Sponcil did so in Sochi and Ostrava to conclude the Olympic qualification process for the Tokyo Games.

“I do remember the last time we lost a set,” Ana Patricia said after a quarterfinal sweep of Canadians Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan. “The level is so high at the Beach Pro Tour. I think we’ve been playing very good matches and we’ve been growing with them. I hope we can continue to go in the right direction.”

It was actually a bit curious that it took the two midway through the season to hit their stride. They played together as kids, winning the Youth Olympic Games in 2014, the Under 21 World Championships in 2016, then again in 2017. When they split to begin their professional careers, both were picked up by veterans: Duda to Agatha, Ana Patricia to Rebecca Cavalcanti. Now veterans themselves, when they announced they were getting back together on the Beach Pro Tour, it seemed quiet thunder had struck.

But it wasn’t Duda and Ana Patricia taking the podiums – not at first. It was the very team they met in the finals in Gstaad: Barbara and Carol. They won the opening event of the season, a Challenge event in Tlaxcala, Mexico, then did so again, in Doha. They won silver in Jurmala, an event in which Duda and Ana Patricia won bronze, which marked their first medal of the season.

The landslide of them has begun. The chemistry of old has returned, it seems, as there is no team in the world playing better than them, with three medals in their past three events, two of them gold.

“I’m so happy about this victory,” Duda said. “It’s our second win as a team and that shows we’re building a strong team, which is very special.”

CKU LAT-AUS 010

Building, too, are Australians Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy. The two have now finished in the top five in five straight events, capped by a bronze medal in Gstaad. After dropping a topsy turvy semifinal to Barbara and Carol, 21-10, 14-21, 12-15, Mariafe and Clancy came back with an equally tight bronze medal match against Latvia’s Tina Graudina and Anastasija Kravcenoka, 22-20, 22-24, 15-9.

“That’s part of the game, right? It’s never over until it’s over,” Mariafe said. “They’re all great teams. You can’t take your foot off the pedal, you’ve really got to perform and have that consistency all match. That first game taught us that a little bit but we stayed in there and stayed strong and stuck it out and stuck through it.”

The bronze marks the second medal of the season for Mariafe and Clancy, who won a silver in the Kusadasi Challenge in mid-May. Their extended trip to Europe has only just begun, however, as the two will immediately fly to Espinho, Portugal, for another Challenge event, before a training camp in Hamburg, Germany, Commonwealth Games, then an Elite16 even back in Hamburg.

“We had two years of not much volleyball and it’s paying off now, going through the processes and it’s setting us up for longevity,” Clancy said. “We know we have the consistency we just have to keep going out and trying our best.”