Latvia and Spain celebrate berths for Olympics

Haiyang, China, September 22, 2019 - Tina Graudina and Anastasija Kravcenoka capped a successful two days of beach volleyball here Sunday as the pair became the first women's team to qualify Latvia for the Olympics by defeating Barbora Hermannova and Marketa Slukova of the Czech Republic.

Playing in the second of two finals Sunday on Golden Beach at the FIVB Tokyo Beach Volleyball Olympic Qualification tournament, Graudina and Kravcenoka rallied from a 12-7 deficit in the third-set to post a 2-1 (21-17, 15-21, 17-15) victory in 54 minutes over Hermannova and Slukova.

In Sunday's first women's final, Elsa Baquerizo and Liliana Fernandez gained an Olympic berth for Spain's women after they posted a 2-1 (18-21, 21-17, 15-10) win in 59 minutes over Sandra Ittlinger and Chantal Laboureur of Germany.

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Elsa and Liliana gain Olympic berth for Spain

"This is such an emotional moment for us," said the 22-year-old Kravcenoka.  "We hung together despite being down 12-7 in the deciding set.  Obviously, this ranks as our greatest moment as beach volleyball players."

The newly-crowned European champions after winning the title last month in Moscow, Graudina and Kravcenoka won four of seven pool matches to advance to Sunday's finals where the Latvians played Hermannova and Slukova for the first-time at a FIVB-sanctioned event.

"You always play to win," said Graudina, who was considered the No. 1 player on the American collegiate circuit after leading the University of Southern California to a second-place finish at the national championships in early May.

"Winning the European championships was special and unexpected," Graudina added, "but this win today ranks as a great achievement as we become the first women's team from our country to qualify for the beach volleyball competition at the Olympics.  I am so proud of Anastasija as her serving got us back to even (12-12) in the third set.  And yes, like the European championships, this win was also unexpected."

Kravcenoka had three service winners to get the Latvians back to a 12-13 disadvantage with the Czech Republic pair responding to take a 14-12 lead.  After the Latvians tied the match at 14s and 15s, Graudina had two straight service winners to secure the win and the trip to Tokyo.

After Martin's Plavins and Edgars Tocs' win Saturday for Latvia over Russians Ilya Leshukov and Konstantin Semenov 2-1 (12-21, 22-20, 15-8) in 46 minutes, Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai of Italy posted a 2-0 (21-17, 21-19) win in 35 minutes over Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen of The Netherlands in a match pitting two teams that captured medals at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.


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