Canadian pairs advance to quarterfinals at international beach volleyball tournament

(photo Martin Reader with Brazil's Julia Schmidt in pre-tournament fashion show

CHENNAI, India – Martin Reader of Comox, B.C., and Chaim Schalk of Red Deer, Alta., advanced to the quarterfinals in men’s play and Heather Bansley and Liz Maloney, both of Toronto, did the same on the women’s side on Wednesday at the FIVB Chennai Challenger beach volleyball tournament.

Reader and Schalk, seeded 12th, defeated Sven Vismans and Peter Heysteeg of the Netherlands in their opening match 21-9, 21-14 then edged Reza Assari Naeini and Rahman Raoufi of Iran 17-21, 21-19, 15-13 in 63 minutes, the longest match of the tournament so far.

“We came out firing against the Dutch in the first game and took them handily,” said Reader. “But the Iranians put up a big fight. They are small but had excellent ball control and we had to really focus on executing in our end. We made points at crucial times and held our side-out late in the game to win it.”

The Canadians have been in India for a week in order to adjust to the conditions and have been inspired by their stay.

"It been so much more than volleyball,” said Schalk. “We’ve experienced the culture and have been humbled by a trip to an orphanage. We gained so much more than practice on the court.”

Steve Marshall of Abbotsford, B.C., and Ben Saxton of Calgary are also still in contention after a win and a loss on Wednesday at the double elimination tournament.

On the women’s side, Bansley and Maloney, seeded 11th, defeated Ana Vidal and Maria Corral of Spain 21-10, 21-12 and upset sixth-seeds Laura Giombini and Valeria Rosso of Italy 12-21, 21-12, 15-13.

‘’In our first match against Spain we were able to take control with our tough serving and consistent siding out,’’ said Bansley. ‘’Our second match tonight against Italy was a little rocky at the beginning but in the second set we started executing better. It wasn't our best game but we feel confident.

Julie Rodrigue of Quebec City and Katherine Zakrzewski of Toronto opened with a victory over Beh Shun Thing and Luk Teck Hua of Malaysia in three sets. But they lost their second match to fourth-seeds Vilde Solvoll and Ingrid Torlen of Norway in three sets with the third finishing 15-13. They must go through the repechage to get to the medal round.

‘’Overall we played well,’’ said Rodrigue. ‘’We had slumps in the second set of both matches but we were able to bounce back strong. One of the two Norwegian players was at the last Olympics and their experience won out in the end. Still it’s fun to see we can keep pace with such a strong team.’’

Competition continues Thursday.