CKU Paris USA-NED 010

After missing the top five in just one of their 12 events, the Dutch want more

The last two years of Katja Stam and Raisa Schoon’s beach volleyball careers have been nothing short of impressive. The Dutch climbed the world rankings faster than any other team and achieved more in the last 20 months than many of their opponents will accomplish in their entire careers.

Stam, 24, and Schoon, 21, came out of nowhere to claim one of the last berths at the Tokyo Olympics with their victory in the CEV Continental Cup. Since then, the two have won a pair of Beach Pro Tour Elite16 events, taken top spot in the FIVB World Rankings and appeared on the podium of two editions of the European Championships.

  • Watch all Beach Pro Tour Finals matches live or on demand on Volleyball TV.

Despite all they have accomplished in such a short period of time, however, they are not yet satisfied.

“Sometimes, a single good result is not what I’m looking for,” Stam told Volleyball World. “I’m hunting for a steady high-ranked place in the World Rankings. Dominating this sport at the highest level possible is my ultimate goal. And being in third place in the rankings says we’re on the right path.”

The Dutch will have a massive opportunity to strengthen their case as a dominant team in international beach volleyball from January 26-29, when they will compete at the 2022 Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Finals in Doha, Qatar.

Ranked third in the world, Stam and Schoon will compete with Brazil’s Eduarda ‘Duda’ Lisboa/Ana Patricia Ramos and Carol Salgado/Barbara Seixas, Australia’s Taliqua Clancy/Mariafe Artacho, Latvia’s Tina Graudina/Anastasija Samoilova, Switzerland’s Nina Brunner/Tanja Hüberli, Germany’s Cinja Tillmann/Svenja Müller, Canada’s Sarah Pavan/Sophie Bukovec and USA’s Taryn Kloth/Kristen Nuss and Kelly Cheng/Sara Hughes for the title of the first-ever Beach Pro Tour Finals.

“It will be a really tough tournament for sure,” Stam said. “Some teams kept on playing over the last months while others took a little rest and focused on training. So it’s hard to know how the other teams are going to be. What I do know is that Raisa and I are still making progress every week and that we’re really looking forward to playing the tournament and seeing where we are at the start of this Olympic qualification.”

Besides an opportunity to get another good result at the highest level of international beach volleyball, the Finals are also seen by Stam and Schoon as a reward for an excellent Beach Pro Tour season.

In 2022, the Dutch were one of just two women’s teams to win multiple gold medals at Elite16 events. Their victories were both at key events too, as Stam and Schoon triumphed in the first-ever Elite16 tournament, in Rosarito, and also topped the podium at the iconic Roland Garros stadium in Paris. A few weeks after their first title, the two players also reached the top spot in the World Rankings.

“I thought 2022 was a great year,” Stam reflected. “I’m so happy with our performances and all the lessons we’ve learned. It was cool to see what we're capable of at the world’s highest level. We made it to the gold medal match in the first three tournaments of the season and I feel that it changed expectations people had about us. I think now we know how to deal with this and I’m proud of our entire team.”

Stam and Schoon’s own expectations, however, were fulfilled for most of the season. After making it to the Olympics and playing in the European Championship gold medal match in 2021, they entered the 2022 season determined to add another level of consistency to their game.

And that was achieved to their satisfaction as they won four Beach Pro Tour medals (two gold, two silver) and finished in the top five in nine of the 12 tournaments they played at.

The fact that they didn't do quite as well at the 2022 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships, when they were ninth, prevented them from being fully satisfied, but they entered the New Year certain that important lessons were learned.

“After last season, we wanted to consistently be among the five best teams at the Elite16 level and that worked out pretty well,” Stam added. “One tournament that left us a little frustrated was the World Championship. I don’t think ninth is a bad finish for a team that was playing in it for the first time, but I don’t think we performed at our best level or that our preparation was the most optimal. But now we know what we need to do better next time.”

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Schoon and Stam in action during the World Championship in Rome

Stam and Schoon have been training in The Hague since the end of November and spent some days in Hamburg in December working with German duos. After the New Year, they headed to Tenerife, where they’ll finalize their preparation for the Finals.

“I think our consistency is a combination of hard work and having fun,” Stam concluded. “That combination makes everyday training a lot easier. We will see what Doha will bring, but we still have this combination, so I have no doubts it will be a great tournament with or without a victory in the end. But I don’t like losing, so I’m going to fight to win every game there.”