Larnaka, Cyprus, July 28, 2016 – Pool B in the men’s competition of the FIVB U19 World Championships proved to be full of surprises on the first day of main draw. Lucky losers Alexei Kirienko and Anton Saraev upset Brazil’s top seeds Renato Lima de Carvalho and Rafael Jose Mendonca de Quieroz 2-1 (21-18, 17-21, 15-12), but in their second match the Russians had to bow for Mexico’s Miguel Sarabia and Raymond Stephens (21-14, 21-13).
The day had started well for 17-year old Kirienko and Saraev. They were still euphoric because they got this second chance as lucky losers. Saraev: “It was so amazing last night. I just couldn’t believe it. It took me 15 minutes to realize we were that lucky. There were so much emotions going around in my head.”
It definitely gave them wings in the match against the Brazilians. “We tried to do everything in perfect quality. No mistakes”, said Kirienko, who is following in his brother’s footsteps here in Larnaka. His older sibling Viacheslav Kirienko (22) won bronze at the U19 in Larnaka in 2012.
“We just believed in ourselves”, added Saraev. “We kept strong. We thought about our mother, fathers, sisters, brothers, coaches and our country. We wanted to make them proud.”
But their positive flow was brutally interrupted by two 17-year olds from Mexico, who travelled abroad for the first time. Fifteenth seeded Sarabia and Stephens already impressed in the morning with a 2-0 (21-11, 21-13) win over Canadians Jordan Pereira and Sharone Vernon Evans. And they had no mercy with the Russian lucky losers either.
“We even played a little better against Russia”, said Stephens. “We knew we were going to do well here. But it’s a tough group with four good teams. The level is very high and the teams are close. Everybody can win, so we knew we had to stay focussed.”
At the U17 World Championships in Mexico two years ago Stephens finished ninth and Sarabia fifth with different partners. Together they tried to qualify for the Puerto Vallarta Open last year, but they lost to Venezuela’s Youth Olympic silver medallists Rolando Peter Hernandez and Jose Tigrito Gomez.
Mexico is, especially in the men’s, an upcoming country in beach volleyball. The youth teams do well lately; just a few months ago Jose Rubio and Josue Gaxiola took the silver medal at the U21 World Championships.
There is a new generation coming, the Mexican coach explained. Thanks to Juan Virgen and Lombardo Ontiveros. “They are a big example for all the young players since they do so well on the World Tour and now also qualified for the Rio Olympic Games.”
Stephens and Sarabia don’t want to think about a medal yet. “We have to go match by match and in the end I think we can go to the finals”, Stephens said. “But there is a lot of competition, like the guys from Switzerland, France and Spain. They are good teams.”
Surprisingly enough those three teams are all in the same pool in Larnaka. In pool G only two matches were played on Thursday. Spain’s Oscar Jimenez and Alejandro Huerta defeated Azibi Walid and Rabahi Djillali from Algeria (21-11, 21-11).
Swiss U17 world champions Florian Breer and Yves Haussener defeated U18 European champions Timothée Platre and Rémi Bassereau from France. In a tight match, full of thrilling rallies, the Swiss persevered in the tiebreak with just a couple of points difference: 21-17, 18-21, 15-13.
“It was a very tough game”, said Breer. “At the important moments in the first set we made our side-out, then we lost the second, but in the end, in the tiebreak, they made one or two mistakes more than us.”
“And I think Spain is a very good team as well. So it’s a strong pool and it will be a close game against Spain. We played them in the U17 world championship final two years ago. We won 2-1 and I hope we can repeat that or maybe even better, win 2-0.”Quick Links
• U19 World Championships Larnaka, Cyprus 2016 - website
• Qualification - Men
• Qualification - Women
• Main draw - Men
• Main draw - Women