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Sander and Crabb had good moments in their first tournament together last November in Itapema

We’re just days away from the start of what will be a historic season for international beach volleyball with the new Beach Pro Tour marking the beginning of a new era for the sport.

The new event will bring together music, food and the beach lifestyle that has long been the sport’s trademark, but, above everything else, will provide the setting for exciting battles between the best teams on the planet.

As we prepare for the first-ever Beach Pro Tour tournament, the Challenge event in Tlaxcala, Mexico from March 16-20, here are six teams that you will want to follow closely throughout the season.

Mol/Sorum (Norway)

The Beach Volley Vikings are always a great team to watch and this season they will be carrying the extra weight of being the reigning Olympic champions. At 24 and 26, Anders Mol and Christian Sorum will be the youngest players to ever enter a season in such a position and although they’ve always been able to handle whatever situation they were faced with, it will be interesting to see how they react to the added responsibility and visibility an Olympic gold medal brings.

The Norwegians have dominated the international scene for the last four years, playing an innovative style of beach volleyball. But now their opponents have had time to analyse and find ways to neutralise their game. An extra source of motivation for them could be the upcoming World Championship, virtually the only title they’re yet to win in international beach volleyball.

Clancy/Artacho (Australia)

Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar didn’t play a lot in 2021, but they made the most of each opportunity they had to compete, finishing in the top ten in the five events they played, with the highlights obviously being their silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics and their victory in the third tournament of the Cancun Hub.

With well-rested bodies, the experience earned at their second Olympic Games and two players who are entering their physical primes at 29 and 28, expect the Aussies to be even more dynamic and competitive in 2022. Not many teams in the world have their combination of aggressive serving, tall blocking and creative offence, and if they continue to explore those strengths as they have been, they’ll be as hard as ever to beat.

Bryl/Losiak (Poland)

Many considered Michal Bryl and Bartosz Losiak were the top Polish players during the period leading to the Tokyo Games, but excepting a tournament in Klagenfurt in 2016, when they finished fourth, they have not played together. The retirement of Bryl’s former partner Grzegorz Fijalek opened the doors to a new partnership, which comes at an interesting moment in the two players' careers, aged 27 and 29 respectively.

The prospect of seeing these two players create something new and seeing how they can change and adapt the way they play, is always an exciting one. And especially so with these two outstanding athletes. While Losiak will now have a bigger and more physical blocker in front of him (than his former partner Piotr Kantor), Bryl will now have a skilled setter, who played for nearly a decade in a very creative offensive system, to enhance and diversify his attack.

Duda/Ana Patricia (Brazil)

This is a team many believe will dominate international beach volleyball for years to come - if things go right for them. Aged 23 and 24, Eduarda ‘Duda’ Lisboa and Ana Patricia Ramos check all the boxes when it comes to a modern beach volleyball team. Both players are tall, well-versed offensive players who are also very good technically and can serve hard.

The two had success in the past, winning the 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympics and back-to-back editions of the FIVB U21 World Championships in 2016 and 2017, and have proven themselves among the elite of the sport with different partners. Duda is clearly the best Brazilian defender in activity, while Ana Patricia is hands down the country’s top blocker. If they manage to combine their skills in a productive way, this should be a formidable team.

Crabb/Sander (United States)

It’s not unusual to see volleyball players transition to the sand, but not many of them have done so at the very peak of their careers. Taylor Sander took this route at the age of 29 and should have the time it takes to turn into a dominant beach volleyball player, just as he was in the indoor game for almost a decade.

His decision to switch to beach volleyball couldn’t have been made at a better time, as he was able to secure an elite partner right away in Taylor Crabb, whose former teammate Jake Gibb had just retired. Longtime friends, the two have massive potential together, and there were glimpses of that potential during their first event together, last November in Itapema. With a full off-season and an entire season to develop, this team could get to the end of 2022 at a much higher level than it started at.

Schoon/Stam (Netherlands)

Here’s another young team with very high expectations for the long term. Raisa Schoon, 20, and Katja Stam, 23, were the youngest team at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, a year in which they also took silver at a highly-competitive European Championship. They’re yet to win an international medal together, but it would be safe to bet that happens in 2022.

Like Brazilians Duda and Ana Patricia, the Dutch have a perfect combination of skills with the 1.92m-tall, left-handed Stam a force at the net who can also serve tough and handset. Schoon, on ther hand, is a a defensive wizard and a crafty offensive player. With Madelein Meppelink and Sanne Keizer entering their mid-30s, they’re set to become the top Dutch team on Tour and, why not, join the very elite of the sport.