The world No. 1 Germans are quarter-final bound at beach volleyball's World Tour Finals, though they may not be crazy about facing Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson next season should the Canadians remain partners.
Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst, who finished 0-2 in pool play, went on a 10-3 run to prevail in a third and deciding set in Friday afternoon's first-round elimination match at Polson Pier in Toronto.
"Going into the third set we knew we had just 15 points to play, so we put everything into it," Walkenhorst told the FIVB website.
Jamie Broder and Kristina Valjas, Canada's other women's team, were eliminated in straight sets earlier Friday by Isabelle Forrer and Anouk Verge-Depre of Switzerland.
Bansley and Wilkerson dropped the first set 21-17 before pulling away late in the second for a 21-18 decision. They went 1-1 in pool play in what could be their only event together.
'I think she made a name for herself this week and opened the eyes of many other teams.' - Canada's Heather Bansley on partner Brandie Wilkerson, 24
Bansley and Sarah Pavan split a month ago following a straight-sets, quarter-final loss to Ludwig and Walkenhorst at the Rio Olympics. While Pavan has hooked up with Melissa Humana-Paredes for the long term, Bansley told CBC Sports last week she plans to decide what she wants in a partner during the fall months with an eye toward the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
"She's a great athlete and I think she made a name for herself this week and opened the eyes of many other teams here," said the 29-year-old Bansley of Wilkerson, who had played the fewest FIVB events (15) entering this week.
"She has tons of potential and I'm really happy I had the opportunity to share the court with her. I'm really excited to see her keep going."
6 unanswered points
Bansley and Wilkerson, the youngest player in this week's main draw at 24, showed they have the ability to be a threat on the FIVB World Tour.
They took a 7-5 lead in Friday's third set on a Wilkerson block before the Germans scored six unanswered points, punctuated by a pair of Walkenhorst aces, and led by at least three points the rest of the way.
"They settled down a little bit better than we did," Bansley said of Ludwig and Walkenhorst. "They were a little bit more consistent with their sideout."
In a tightly-contested second set, Bansley and Wilkerson frittered away a 5-2 advantage, regained the lead — albeit short-lived — before trading points with their opponent until forging ahead 18-17 on a Bansley block.
Ludwig and Walkenhorst, who won a gold medal in Rio, will face world No. 2 and Olympic bronze medallists Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross of the United States later Friday.
The German tandem had their 13-match FIVB World Tour winning streak snapped on Wednesday in a three-set defeat to Argentina's Ana Gallay and Georgina Klug. They went on to lose to Switzerland's Joana Heidrich and Nadine Zumkehr in three sets, but have clinched the FIVB season points title and lead all women's teams on the Tour with six championships this season, totalling $289,875 US in winnings.
Broder, Valjas struggle late
Broder and Valjas were relentless, but couldn't close out their Swiss opponents.
They exchanged points late in both sets with Forrer and Verge-Depre, who won by scores of 24-22 and 21-19 for their first victory in five attempts against the Canadians in the World Tour series, dating back to 2013.
"There were a lot of good rallies and the Swiss girls are a good team," said Broder. "I'm proud of the things we did on the court today. We tightened up our game. … It was just a difference of a few inches at the end."
Broder, of Victoria, and Toronto's Valjas finished third of three teams in Pool C, winning only one of five sets, and are 3-9 in elimination rounds this season.
Canadian men combined 1-3
On the men's side, Alberta's Chaim Schalk/Ben Saxton outlasted Brazil's Pedro Solberg and Evandro Goncalves, winning 2-1 (23-21, 15-21, 15-13) and will play Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen of the Netherlands in an elimination match on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Schalk and Saxton finished pool play 1-1 after a straight-sets loss (17-21, 17-21) on Thursday to Americans Tri Bourne and John Hyden, who won Pool D with a 2-0 record.
Josh Binstock and Sam Schachter, both from Toronto, lost in straight sets (20-22, 16-21) to Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak of Poland after falling 2-1 (21-16, 16-21, 9-15) to Americans Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena in Pool C action on Wednesday. They face Poland's Mariusz Prudel and Grzegorz Fijalek at noon Saturday.
"Not even close to our best. Their serving and blocking was superior to ours," said Binstock.
Added Schachter: "There's a few elements of our game we definitely have to improve: serving, passing, sideout, digging, passing and defence."
- Round of 16: Saturday, starting at 10 a.m. ET
- Quarter-finals: Saturday at 4:45 and 5:45 p.m. ET
- Semifinals: Sunday at 10 and 11 a.m. ET
- Bronze medal game: Sunday at 1:45 p.m. ET
- Gold medal game: Sunday at 3 p.m. ET
- Quarter-finals: Friday at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. ET
- Semifinals: Saturday at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. ET
- Bronze medal game: Saturday at 1:30 p.m. ET
- Gold medal game: Saturday at 2:45 p.m. ET