The Hague, Netherlands, July 3, 2015 - The inspiring run of Australian beach volleyballers Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy has ended in heartbreak at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships The Netherlands 2015, with the duo twice getting within one point of a top four finish.
Bawden and Clancy rode the full roller coaster of emotions on an absorbing Thursday in The Hague, first seeing off the Championship top seeds and hometown favourites over three thrilling sets, and then holding match point on two occasions before eventually succumbing to a team from Brazil in the quarterfinals.
“I’m really proud of what we put out there,” an emotional Clancy said after the quarterfinal.
“I know this is only going to make us stronger.”
Their win over Dutch pair, Marleen Van Iersel and Madelein Meppelink, was career defining.
Not only did they have to beat the team ranked number one at the World Championships, they had to withstand the pressure of a nail-biting third set in front of capacity orange-clad crowd, who all wanted the Australians beaten.
While the Brazilians were ranked lower than the Australians, no-one actually believed it was a ranking that reflected their true world standing.
Which is why the 21-15 scoreline in Bawden and Clancy’s favour in the first set surprised many; and why the 21-16 turnaround in the second made sense.
But the strength and resilience that has been building in the Australian pair over three years came to the fore in the third set.
Twice the Australians had close points overturned, both times after Clancy spikes too ferocious to be seen by the naked eye.
Despite the setbacks, the Australians fought on, taking a match point at 14-13, then again at 15-14, then saved one at 15-16 before finally buckling at 16-18.
“It’s really disappointing, it was very tight at the end,” Bawden said.
“T and I have really battled some massive things this week, fought hard and stuck together. We’re getting stronger all the time, we know this is going to contribute to more wins in the future.”
The Adelaide-based pair is perfectly placed for an assault on the Rio Olympics next year.
They came together after the London Olympics, matching the experience and calmness of two-time Olympian Louise Bawden with the undoubted natural talents and energy of 20-year-old Taliqua Clancy.
They tasted immediate success on the domestic circuit, enjoyed strong results in Asia, and were ‘thereabouts’ on their first season on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour.
Year two of mixing it with the world’s best was very much a year of consolidation for the Australians, but 2015 has been the year they have made their mark.
Bawden and Clancy have strung together a series of top ten finishes, including a bronze medal in Croatia, fifths in Norway and China, and a ninth in Moscow.
The success has pushed them to seven on the World Tour rankings. In April next year, the top 15 ranked teams will gain automatic qualification for the Rio Olympics.
Bawden had her first taste of the Olympics as a 19-year-old at the 2000 Sydney Olympics as a member of the women’s indoor volleyball team.
Twelve years later she was once again marching in an Olympic ceremony, this time with beach volleyball partner Becchara Palmer.
The Games didn’t go as she hoped, and when Palmer announced her retirement it left her without a playing partner but with a burning desire to correct the record.
Enter Taliqua Clancy, a gangly, shy Queenslander who had been making her mark as Australia’s first Indigenous beach volleyballer to grace the national stage.
If there were concerns the pressure being placed on Clancy would prove too much, she quickly put them to rest the only way she knew how – by leaping, spiking, diving, and blocking her way around Australia’s best known beaches.
Her rise has been meteoric – Sydney 2000 gold medalist Kerri Pottharst recently described her as the best beach volleyballer she has ever seen.
And as results are now showing, Pottharst is a good judge of talent.