01_BPT Rosarito - Women Main Draw AUSvsNED

Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho Del Solar are in Mexico for their Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour debut in the Rosarito main draw. This is their first international appearance in over seven months since the top Australian pair won the Olympic silver medals at Tokyo 2020 last year, and they are eager not only to take their place on the sand courts and play at the highest level again, but also to earn a place on the podium at the inaugural Elite 16 event.

“We’re excited to be back on tour where we get to compete against the best of the best,” 28-year-old defender Mariafe told volleyball.org.au.

“Our first goal is to finish on the podium here in Rosarito. It’s our first event of the season, so we are excited to build on the great pre-season and training camp we’ve just had,” 29-year-old blocker Clancy added.

The Aussie standouts had a robust training period on home ground ahead of the new season and completed their pre-season preparation with a one-week camp in California before taking the cross-border trip to Baja California in Mexico.

“The start of the year has been busy for us as a team,” Mariafe continued. “We had a great eight-week training block where we worked extremely hard on our fitness, skill set and game type, which was awesome. We’ve also just finished a week-long training camp in Los Angeles with other international teams and have arrived in Rosarito hungry and ready to compete.”

Mariafe and Clancy started their long-term partnership in the late summer of 2017 and immediately topped the podium at their first two FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour appearances together. The 2017-2018 season continued to be an awesome debut for the new Australian pair, during which they took a total of six medals, four of which gold. 2018 was also marked with a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games, which Australia hosted in Gold Coast, and their first Asian Championship title.

The Aussies’ brilliant journey as a team continued in the next seasons, when they added more major international podiums, including another continental title in 2019 and a bronze at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships in Hamburg. Of course, the 2021 season was particularly special for Clancy and Mariafe. The Games in Tokyo were the second Olympic appearance for each of the two athletes, but the first for them as a team. And they crowned it with a silver medal.

With the 2022 calendar including the all-new Beach Pro Tour, the next edition of the World Championships and the next edition of the Commonwealth Games, the latter being particularly special for Australian sports in general, Clancy and Mariafe anticipate another exciting season ahead.

“It’s going to be an awesome season this year!” Clancy exclaimed. “The Beach Pro Tour will be busy. The competition on the Tour is always fierce, so it will get us in great shape once the middle of the year comes around. It’s also a great way for our team to prepare for the Commonwealth Games.”

“Volleyball World and the FIVB have put in a lot of work to create the new tour and tournament structure,” said Mariafe. “The Challenge event in Tlaxcala was awesome to watch. We know Rosarito will be the same, if not better!”

The highest ranked Australian pair did not take part in Tlaxcala, shooting straight for the highest level in Rosarito, where they are seeded fifth in the main draw.

The Aussies had a tough start against Tlaxcala silver medallists Katja Stam and Raisa Schoon of the Netherlands on Thursday. They came back from a set down to level the score, but eventually lost the tie-breaker. Clancy and Mariafe will take on reigning world champions Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes of Canada on Friday at 10:00 local time. Their last round-robin match in Pool D is scheduled later on the same day, at 18:30, and their opponents will be host country representatives Atenas Gutierrez and Maria Quintero.

“Every team is here to win and there are so many talented partnerships that have just formed following the end of an Olympic cycle,” Clancy added. “In saying that, we are here to win just like everyone else. So it’s game on!”

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