Road To The Olympic Games


Canada's Bansley, Wilkerson 2-0 as beach v-ball partners at World Tour event

New Canadian beach volleyball duo Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson opened the main draw of the Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals with a 2-0 win (21-14, 21-12) over Italy's Laura Giombini and Marta Menegatti on Wednesday at Polson Pier in Toronto.

New Canadian tandem posts straight-sets win over Italy; Broder, Valjas lose opener

Canada's Brandie Wilkerson returns the ball during a win over an Italian duo at the FIVB World Tour Finals in Toronto. (FIVB)

Make it two straight-set victories in as many appearances for Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson.

The new Canadian beach volleyball duo opened the main draw of the Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals with a 2-0 win (21-14, 21-12) over Italy's Laura Giombini and Marta Menegatti in Pool D action Wednesday afternoon at Polson Pier in Toronto.

Bansley, 29, and Wilkerson, 24, have been training for only two weeks after the former split from Sarah Pavan following the Rio Olympics after four years together but they are clicking early on in Toronto, where the top team in the 12-team men's and women's divisions will take home $100,000 US.

On Tuesday, they needed just 36 minutes to send Melissa Humana-Paredes and Pavan packing with victories of 23-21, 21-13 to gain entry into this week's tournament, which has attracted 11 men's teams from the Olympic competition and 10 on the women's side.

I am proud we refocused on Italy and came out strong.- Canadian beach volleyball player Heather Bansley

The immediate success of the Canadians is impressive, given Wilkerson has played 24 FIVB World Tour events, the fewest of all players at the World Tour Finals. The five-foot-10 native of Lausanne, Switzerland placed ninth with regular partner Julie Gordon at the recent Long Beach Grand Slam.

"I am really pleased with our performance after yesterday," Bansley told the FIVB website. "I am proud we refocused on Italy and came out strong."

The Canadians will play their final pool match Thursday at 5:30 against Chantal Laboureur and Julia Sude of Germany.

Menegatti and Giombini, another new partnership, finished ninth in Rio and were recently crowned Italian champions.

"We are still a really new team. We are figuring each other out," the 26-year-old Menegatti, who played the past three seasons with Viktoria Orsi Toth, said after the 32-minute match.

'Strong team'

In Pool C, defending World Tour Final champions Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca of Brazil made it seven victories in seven meetings with Canada's Jamie Broder and Kristina Valjas, a straight-sets decision by scores of 21-11, 21-18.

"They are a strong team, they are playing at home but today we played well," Antunes told FIVB.

Broder, from Victoria, said her and Valjas tried to "tighten up things" since their Brazilian opponents make few errors.

"If you don't take [the opportunities] while you're there, that's how you lose," added Broder, noting she's motivated by the home crowd. "We'll just build on our side for tomorrow and execute better."

Broder and Valjas face Spain's Elsa Baquerizo and Liliana Fernandez Thursday at 12:30 p.m.

On the men's side, Canada's Josh Binstock and Sam Schachter lost their opening Pool C match 2-1 (16-21, 21-16, 15-9) to Americans Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena.

The other Canadian men's squad, fourth-ranked Chaim Schalk and Ben Saxton, begin play Thursday at 3:30 p.m. versus No. 12 Tri Bourne and John Hyden of the United States in Pool D.

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