uOlsztyn, Poland, June 17, 2016 - Sam Pedlow and Grant O’Gorman (P&O’G) have been performing together on the FIVB World Tour for the past four seasons with the 2015-2016 international campaign being their most productive as the No. 3-ranked Canadian men’s pair on the world-wide Beach Volleyball circuit.
Here this week at the US$800,000 Olsztyn Grand Slam, Pedlow and O’Gorman achieved something the Canadian pair has never experienced on the FIVB World Tour, a pool play match win in one of the international circuit’s “big” events. Not only did P&O’G win once, they were victors two more times to claim their group title and advance to the second-round of Saturday’s elimination bracket with a “bye” and a guaranteed ninth-place finish in the Polish stop.
After posting a 2-0 (21-16, 21-11) Pool A win in 29 minutes Thursday over 16th-seeded Martins Plavins and Haralds Regza of Latvia, the 17th-seeded Pedlow and O’Gorman opened play Friday morning with a “big” upset win over top-seeded and current FIVB World Tour leaders Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak 2-1 (21-19, 16-21, 15-13) in 46 minutes.
With Pool A almost clinched after defeating the two highest-seeded pairs in the group, Pedlow and O’Gorman concluded preliminary Main Draw play with a 2-1 (15-21, 21-11, 15-11) win in 40 minutes over 32nd-seeded qualifiers Cesar Menendez and Francisco Tomas of Spain to advance to Saturday’s 24-team elimination bracket.
"We hope so,” said the 22-year old O’Gorman about the pool play wins being a break-through for the Canadian tandem at future “big” FIVB World Tour events. “We have the Continental Cup (NORCECA, June 22-26 in Guaymas, Sonora, México) coming up next week, which we are trying to win. So this is a good stepping stone for us towards that.”
The 29-year old Pedlow said “we had a bit of a hick-cup in Hamburg last week, but we took four days to train with our coach and staged a mini-training camp. I think it's really paid off. Our systems are really locked down and we are better together than ever."
Prior to this week’s Polish party on Crooked Lake behind the Hotel Omega, Pedlow and O’Gorman split a pair of qualifying matches in Hamburg to place 33rd and missed playing in the smart Major Main Draw. Three weeks before Hamburg, Pedlow and O’Gorman placed fifth at the Cincinnati Open in the United States where they dropped a quarter-final match to compatriots Josh Binstock and Sam Schachter 2-1 (19-21, 21-18, 12-15) in 48 minutes.
Binstock and Schachter, who will team with Pedlow and O’Gorman in the NORCECA Continental Cup next week in Mexico, defeated Americans Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena in the Cincy semi-final before dropping the gold medal match to Saymon Barbosa and Gustavo “Guto” Carvalhaes of Brazil.
When asked about winning their first pool play match in a FIVB “big” event, O’Gorman said “yes. We won the qualifier a couple of times, but never in the main draw." Pedlow said “I think to get that one under our belt gave us some confidence and we just came out today and played our game."
Being cautious when asked about winning the pool after upsetting Kantor and Losiak for the first-time in three meetings with the Poles, O'Gorman said "let's win the next game first, before we talk about that."
With the Olsztyn Grand Slam being Pedlow and O’Gorman’s 34th FIVB World Tour event, the Canadian pair join compatriots Ben Saxton and Chaim Schalk in winning a group. The fifth-seeded Saxton and Schalk, who have already qualified for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, posted a 2-0 (25-23, 21-18) win in 43 minutes over 12th-seeded Vitor Felipe/Alvaro Filho of Brazil to claim the Pool E title.
Friday was a good day for the North Americans as third-seeded Jake Gibb/Casey Patterson (Pool C) and ninth-seeded Tri Bourne/John Hyden (Pool H) from the United States captured group crowns. The Olympic-bound Gibb/Patterson scored a 2-1 (21-23, 22-20, 18-16) win in 59 minutes over 14th-seeded qualifiers Saymon Barbosa/Gustavo Carvalhaes of Brazil while Bourne/Hyden out-lasted eighth-seeded and Rio-entry Clemens Doppler/Alexander Horst of Austria 2-1 (21-18, 21-23, 30-28) in 67 minutes.
Tri Bourne (left) of the United States competes at the Olsztyn Grand Slam net against Alexander Horst of Austria
Brazilians also captured two groups Friday led by second-seeded and defending Olsztyn champions Alison Cerutti/Bruno Oscar Schmidt of Brazil (Pool B) along with seventh-seeded compatriots seventh-seeded Evandro Goncalves/Pedro Solberg (Pool G). Europe had two group winners in fourth-seeded Adrian Gavira/Pablo Herrera of Spain (Pool D) and 11th-seeded Adrian Carambula/Alex Ranghieri of Italy (Pool F).
The Olsztyn Grand Slam will have elimination rounds for men Saturday while the women play their “final four” matches. The men’s semi-final and medal matches will be played Sunday. The winning teams will share the $57,000 first-place prizes.