Mazuras and Knasas claim pool title while dreaming of Tokyo 2020

Larnaka, Cyprus, July 29, 2016 – Aurimas Mazuras and Audrius Knasas claimed pool A at the FIVB U19 World Championships on Friday with a 2-1 win (13-21, 21-14, 15-11) over Australia’s Adam Kitto and Bryce Poland. On Thursday the Lithuanians had already defeated Kazakhstan and Cyprus.

In their final pool match Mazuras (18) and Knasas (17) had a bit of a slow start. “We had a rough beginning”, admitted Knasas. “It was pretty hot and we are not used to it. So we used the first set to adjust to this kind of weather and this kind of game. And in the second set we improved. After that the game was just in flow and we tried to do our best.”

Both the second set and the tiebreak had long, spectacular rallies. A delight for the audience in the Finikoudes stadium in Larnaka, but exhausting for the players. In the end the Lithuanians made just a little bit less mistakes than the Australians.

Knasas: “I think our physical preparation made the difference. We train a lot on endurance. We are used to playing these long rallies. We just go on and on and push ourselves to the limit. And that, I think, was the key in winning this game.”

“We got pretty lucky with this group. The teams were good, but they weren’t very, very tough, like in some of the other groups. And we didn’t waist this opportunity and ended up on top.”

The pair from Lithuania finished fourth in the U18 European Championships in 2015 and 17th at the CEV U20 this year. The FIVB U19 is their first World Championship. “The first big event in our careers”, Knasas called it.

At home they don’t have a lot of older Lithuanian beach volleyball players they can look up to or learn from. “There is only one team that plays on the World Tour, but they don’t pass qualification. But maybe some day, me and my partner will change this. We didn’t make it to the Rio Olympics obviously, but our biggest dream is to play in Tokyo.”

Another East-European team that did well in pool play were Tymofii Poluian and Dmytro Vietskiy. The Ukrainians won pool C with three straight wins. After defeating USA and Namibia they set aside Australia’s Paul Burnett and Marcus Ferguson (21-15, 21-19) on Friday.

In the second set the Ukrainians were trailing and at 15-19 Burnett and Ferguson were close to a tiebreak, but Poluian and Vietskiy cleaned up their act and came back to finish the second set 21-19.

Poluian: “It was hard, but we won, so it’s all good. We won the first set and then we thought the second would be easy. So we relaxed too much and then we were trailing with three of four points. We understood that we needed to step it up a bit in order to win. So we did.”

The 18-year olds won silver last year at the U18 European championships, but had never participated in a FIVB event before. “The level here is a bit higher”, said Poluian. “And in the elimination rounds, there are no easy matches anymore. So we need to be prepared. Especially mentally.”

Qualifiers Pisco De Abreu Lima and Felipe De Oliveira Miranda from Brazil also topped their pool with straight wins, as did Russia’s Sergey Gorbenko and Vasilii Ivanov.

The other two pool winners are Swiss team Florian Breer and Yves Haussener, Germany’s Milan Sievers and Sven Winter, Mexico’s Raymond Stephens and Miguel Sarabia and Poland’s Maciej Lewicki and Adam Lenc.

The numbers two and three in each pool advance to the first elimination round on Saturday. The pool winners start in the second knockout round. The semifinals and medal matches are scheduled for Sunday.

Quick Links
•    U19 World Championships Larnaka, Cyprus 2016 - website
•    Qualification - Men
•    Qualification - Women
•    Main draw - Men
•    Main draw - Women


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