Canadian beach volleyballers Pavan, Humana-Paredes remain perfect, advance to quarters

·4 min read
Canada's Sarah Pavan, right, and Melissa Humana-Paredes celebrate their straight-sets win over Spain's Liliana Fernández and Elsa Baquerizo during their first knockout match at the Tokyo Olympics on Monday. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images - image credit)
Canada's Sarah Pavan, right, and Melissa Humana-Paredes celebrate their straight-sets win over Spain's Liliana Fernández and Elsa Baquerizo during their first knockout match at the Tokyo Olympics on Monday. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images - image credit)

Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes have moved one step closer toward their goal of winning Canada's first Olympic gold in beach volleyball.

The reigning world champions advanced to the quarter-finals at the Tokyo Olympics with a straight-sets (21-13, 21-13) win over Spain's Liliana Fernández and Elsa Baquerizo in their opening knockout match at Shiokaze Park on Monday.

Pavan set the tone with seven block points and eight attack points, while Humana-Paredes racked up 15 attack points and 10 successful digs. The duo is now 4-0 at Tokyo 2020, with momentum continuing to grow after not dropping a set all tournament.

Pavan and Humana-Paredes are on a collision course to potentially face fellow Canadian duo Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson, but first they have to take care of business against Australia's Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar on Tuesday at 9 a.m. ET.

Bansley and Wilkerson will face Latvia's Tina Graudina and Anastasija Kravcenoka in the quarter-finals on Tuesday at 8 a.m. ET, and a win could set up an all-Canadian semifinal showdown. The duo advanced with a comeback win over No. 3-ranked Americans Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil on Saturday.

"Normally at this stage you see two Americans, two Brazilians," Pavan said. "Here you're seeing two Canadians now and I think that says a lot about our program and our federation, and as a country we should be really proud of where we are in beach volleyball."

The opening set started close with Spain drawing first blood, but it wasn't long before Canada began to pull ahead.

A dominant spike from Pavan gave Canada a 6-4 lead, and she put her team in the driver's seat with multiple highlight blocks. Pavan put her six-foot-five frame to full use while shutting down the Spanish duo, giving Canada a 14-6 advantage after consecutive blocks.

WATCH | Pavan, Humana-Paredes advance to quarters at Tokyo Olympics:

Pavan continued to extend the Canadian lead with impact plays at the net, and Humana-Paredes followed it up with her sixth ace of the tournament to move her team two points away from the set victory.

Humana-Paredes secured set point with a shot down the middle. Fernández extended the set by dropping a shot over Pavan's block, but the Canadians responded and quickly closed it out.

'She makes my job really easy'

Pavan continued where she left off in the second, putting Canada up 7-3 with her second block of the set. Canada brought relentless pressure, and errors began to hinder the Spanish attack. The Canadians took full control with a 14-7 lead at the technical timeout.

"I definitely wouldn't want to be on the other side of Sarah. She's just so good at what she does and she makes my job really easy," Humana-Paredes said.

"Knowing the space that she's taking and just her presence and her dominance has such a huge impact in the game. She makes me look really good, so I love it. It also makes the rallies a lot quicker, which is great."

A big spike from Humana-Paredes put Canada three points away from victory with a 18-9 lead, and she followed it up with another ace against Fernández.

Spain held on to save a match point, and Fernández stepped up with an ace of her own. But Humana-Paredes secured the victory with a tip off the net, sending the Canadian team to the quarters with a perfect record.

"It's never easy. If it looks easy it's because we took advantage of the opportunities that we had. We played very low error; we blocked and dug a lot of balls and our side out was very consistent," Pavan said.

"Every chance we had, we took advantage of it and we're very happy with that result."

The Canadians were coming off a victory over Switzerland's Joana Heidrich and Anouk Vergé-Dépré to close out the group stage. They started the tournament with wins over Dutch duo Katja Stam and Raisa Schoon, and Germany's Julia Sude and Karla Borger.

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Their Australian opponents in Tuesday's quarter-final match went 2-1 during the group stage, starting the tournament with consecutive straight-sets victories over Cuba's Lidianny Echevarria Benitez and Leila Consuelo Martinez Ortega, and Italy's Marta Menegatti and Viktoria Orsi Toth.

They are coming off a straight-sets win over China's Wang Xinxin and Xue Chen in their opening knockout stage match.

"They are excellent from the service line so we're gonna have to be very mobile and really communicative on our services," Pavan said. "They also run a really varied offence. They're not traditional, they're running plays all over the place so we're going to have to be really steady and stay balanced with our block defence."

Pavan competed alongside Bansley at the previous Summer Olympics in Rio, but they dropped their first knockout match after going undefeated in the group stage. The duo went their separate ways following the defeat, ending a four-year partnership.

Canada's only previous Olympic medal in beach volleyball came in 1996 at the inaugural Olympic tournament, where John Child and Mark Heese won bronze.

WATCH | Pavan, Humana-Paredes pursuing Olympic history:

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