Praia

After nearly four months of training, the Brazilians will compete in Mexico (Photo: Raphael Oliveira/@EAZ Photo)

A new team's debut often comes with jitters, but those feelings have been a little bit more intense in the weeks leading up to the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Rosarito Elite 16 event.

The tournament that will be played from March 23-27 in the Mexican state of Baja California, on the country’s western coast, will set the scene fro Brazilians Eduarda ‘Duda’ Lisboa and Ana Patricia Ramos' first appearance as partners.

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The Tokyo Olympians revealed they’d be teammates in the years leading to the Paris 2024 Olympics last October, but only started training together in January and are yet to share the same side of the court in a tournament. That moment will take place on Thursday, when they start their main draw campaign in Mexico.

“We’re super excited to finally play together for the first time,” Ana Patricia told Volleyball World. “We’ve been working hard to prepare for this moment but at the same time we know it’s just the first step and that we still have a lot to improve. But the desire to start well and establish ourselves as a good team is very much alive inside us.”

Expectations from fans who have long wanted the two to play together are certainly higher than that. Given the two players' success to date, and their young age at 23 for Duda and 24 for Ana Patricia, many expect them to be a force in the sport for several years.

The fact that they will enter the Rosarito Elite 16 event as the top-seeded team on the women’s side just adds to those expectations. But the two players are well-grounded and aware of what they need to do to navigate the moment in the best possible way.

“There is, of course, a lot of excitement right now and that’s very understandable,” Duda reflected. “But we are very aware of everything that comes with the excitement, and are determined to use it as fuel to help us perform well. We’re just getting started, it’s our first tournament together and we’re very down-to-earth in that regard.”

Some of the reasons for the high expectations around Duda and Ana Patricia as partners date back to nearly a decade ago. The two joined forces to win the 2014 Youth Olympics and then prevailed in back-to-back editions of the FIVB U21 World Championships in 2016 and 2017.

But success at age group tournaments is one thing. And the Beach Pro Tour is another. The two players know that very well and are focused on the part of the process they can control. The aim is have a solid debut in Rosarito, and continue the season in a similar vein.

“We have great confidence in each other and that’s very important,” Duda added. “It’s impossible to predict if we’ll have success as a team or not, but we’re 100% sure that we’re doing our absolute best every single day. And we can only hope our results on the court reflect that.”

Had the two joined forces in previous seasons, they would have already played together at this time of the year. However, their decision to skip the only Brazilian Tour event held in 2022 has pushed their debut back and positioned them for possibly the latest season start of their careers.

“It has certainly been a different start of the year for us,” Ana Patricia reacted. “Every season we typically play at least a couple of events on our national tour before going to compete overseas, but this season it worked out differently. We see the international teams are all in rhythm and we don’t want to start behind. We always needed to bring our absolute best to compete any time we played internationally, and now that’s even more true. These will be very important opportunities for us to play and develop our game as a team.”

One thing has helped Duda and Ana Patricia remain match fit even after almost four months without playing any official matches. As part of their programme with Brazilian volleyball club Praia Clube, the two get to train daily with Taina Bigi and Victoria Lopes, who are ranked among the top teams in Brazil and also compete on the Beach Pro Tour.

“It’s been great to work with them,” Duda agreed. “They are a great team and add so much to our training. I’m really good friends with both of them off the court and I think we created an environment in which we can work at the highest level and have a very pleasant atmosphere. I’m really confident this system will end up helping both teams.”