2017 has been a tremendous one for beach volleyball, which saw headlines being made on courts all across the globe. Yet as well-known faces battled it out across the sands, a new generation was beginning to rise, ready to leave their own mark on the sport.
As the 2018 season begins to take flight, here are the top five up-and-coming women’s beach volleyball players to watch.
#5. Kelly Claes
Current Partner: Sara Hughes
The second member of the “Redbear” team, Kelly Claes is a titan at net, and has the potential to not just be a world class blocker, but THE world class blocker. With so much expected of Claes, and so much already accomplished, it is difficult to realize that like her partner, she is only twenty-two years old.
Despite only a single championship on this year’s AVP Tour, Claes spent the year laying down foundations to steadily improve on already incredible skillsets. Although being a rookie, she is always ready to go toe-to-toe with anyone who feels like challenging her at the net.
Claes is fully and firmly committed to her partnership, knowing that making it to the Olympics is not a matter of if. It is simply a matter of when. Beyond doubt, a new champion has arisen.
#4. Sara Hughes
Current Partner: Kelly Claes
How many athletes dream of Olympic gold while in college? Probably a lot. But how many athletes are seriously expected to be legitimate medal contenders before their pro careers even begin? Probably very, very few. Sara Hughes, however, is one such player. And she is ready for the challenge.
Unprecedented is the best way to describe the career trajectory of Hughes and good friend/longtime partner Kelly Claes. An unbelievably fierce competitor, Hughes puts any team on high alert- even though she’s only played a total of one full year on the World Tour. It’s little wonder why Kerri-Walsh Jennings went to extremes to try and coax her as a partner.
No surprise, Hughes was the winner of the 2017 Rookie of the Year Award. Watch out world; a new sheriff is inbound.
#3. Taliqua Clancy
Current Partner: Mariafe Artacho del Solar
With outlets typically focusing on news from Brazil, Germany, and the USA, it can be easy to overlook the fact that Australia is a raising power on the beach. Their beach volleyball program has been busy training a next generation of champions, including the 25-year-old Taliqua Clancy.
Already, she has helped bring Australia some much deserved attention. During the Quinzhou Open in October, Clancy and partner Mariafe Artacho del Solar played a near perfect match against Poland to claim gold in straights sets. The victory was the first Australian victory on the world stage since 2007. Not a bad way to end the year!
A dominant and commanding player who imposes her will on the sand, it will be exhilarating to see where Clancy’s future takes her.
Current Partner: Sarah Pavan
Melissa Humana Paredes ended this season by taking home one gold, two silvers, and one bronze on the FIVB World Tour. When compared to last year’s season high of a fifth, it’s quite easy to see why she walked away as 2017’s Most Improved Player of the Year.
The truth is, 2017 was the break out year for Humana-Paredes. A truly spectacular defender, she is relentless and dogged, holding steady no matter who she faces on the other side of the net. She has been instrumental in helping Canada steal quite a lot of the spotlight this past year. With cool nerves and determination, she is undoubtedly a key part of Canada’s future.
#1. Duda Lisboa
Current Partner: Agatha Bednarczuk Rippel
There are five simple words can be used to describe the nineteen year old Eduarda “Duda” Santos Lisboa: The Future of Brazilian Volleyball. As a winner of 2016’s Under 19 Championships and the FIVB Rookie of the Year award, there was considerable expectations that she would go on to make a huge impact on the FIVB World tour. Duda didn’t just meet these expectations; she shattered them.
The 2017 season turned out to be a whirlwind for the rookie defender, who stormed in and claimed silver at the Ft. Lauderdale Open. Excelling at both defense and offense, she has already shown a volleyball IQ well beyond her years.
Full of fire, energy, and not one to shy away when having the choice word (or two) with her partner, Duda’s career looks to be a blazing one.