Artacho Del Solar and Clancy win Australian National title on Manly Beach

Mariafe Artacho Del Solar and Taliqua Clancy are the 2021 Australian Beach Volleyball Champions as they emerged the winners of an exciting Beach Volleyball 'Super Sunday' on Manly Beach. The Rio 2016 Olympians took both the national title and the gold medal of the Manly Beach Open, in a tournament that doubled as the third leg of the 2021 Australian Beach Volleyball Tour (ABVT).

Del Solar and Clancy had to mount a spectacular comeback to beat fellow Olympians and defending Australian Champions Nikki Laird and Becchara Palmer 2-1 (17-21, 21-16, 15-9). The three-set final was a local beach volleyball champions showdown as both Del Solar and Laird started their careers on Manly beach.

The top-seeded team were pushed into uncharted territory when they dropped the first set after not conceding more than 14 points to their opponents in their first four championship matches. Del Solar and Clancy found the strength to take the second set, change the momentum of the match and convincingly finish the job in the tie-break.

“[Laird/Palmer] came out hard so we had to turn it on,” said Del Solar. “We stayed really patient and just trusted the process. I am glad that we turned it around.”

“We always had good communication throughout the game and that really helped us to get on the same page and turn [the match] around in the second set. We’ve always had great trust and we always know that no matter what the situation is, if we are behind, we can come back,” Clancy added.

For Del Solar the title has special significance as she took her first Beach Volleyball steps on the sand in Manly Beach.

“I always love to come back to Manly, it has a very special sweet spot in my heart and it's one of my favourite places in the world,” she said.

Understandably, it was mixed emotions for Laird and Palmer as they reflected on their silver medal.

“Playing a final and playing those girls is always an awesome opportunity. We've been hanging to play them all summer so that was really cool. Of course losing is never fun and not something that we ever want to do, but we'll take the really good stuff away and be really proud of ourselves,” Palmer said.

An even more grueling and spectacular third place match went on for over an hour in front of a delighted Manly Beach crowd. After each team had multiple match points denied in an epic tie-break, Northern Beaches locals and 2020 Australian National Championships runner-ups Michaela Mokrohajska/Lucia Michalovicova eventually edged number-4 seed Phoebe Bell and Jess Ngauamo 2-1 (21-17, 17-21, 20-18) for a spot on the podium.

“They really pushed us to our edge and even beyond,” said an elated Michalovicova after the match. “We never gave up. It was an amazing team effort. It’s so amazing to play in front of our home crowd and [to win the bronze medal] is just an incredible feeling.”

Earlier on Bell/Ngauamo had not been able to match the quality of Del Solar/Clancy in the the first semifinal, with the top seed outplaying them 2-0 (21-14, 21-11) to advance to the gold medal match. In the other semifinal, Palmer and Laird had been taken to the decider by Mokrohajska/Michalovicova, but had eventually won convincingly 15-6 in the third set (21-15, 19-21, 15-6).

The ABVT will now move to Queensland as the Tour Finals will be hosted at Coolangatta Beach, QLD from the 12th to the 14th March 2021.