Youth shines at p1440 Las Vegas

Youth shines at p1440 Las Vegas

Christian Sorum-p1440 Las Vegas

Carolina Salgado opened her hands and took a look to the Las Vegas sky, a pretty sky, to be sure, nothing but baby blue and wispy clouds. A perfect day for a beach volleyball tournament.

Wondrous as that October sky was, though, what it didn’t have magically falling from it was reps. Thousands upon thousands of reps.

“This,” she said of her success with Maria Antonelli, “did not fall from the sky. We worked hard for this.”

This is four finals appearances in the last calendar year. This is opening the year at The Hague, emerging from the qualifier to take silver. This is making it at least to the quarterfinals in nine of the past 13 tournaments. This is having two children, as Salgado does, and still reigning atop the world rankings at the end of the 2018 FIVB season.

“I feel so old!” Salgado said, laughing, with yet another semifinal appearance on the horizon at p1440 Las Vegas.

At 31 years old, Salgado is certainly not in any danger of being consider a geriatric, though a veteran, yes, her and Antonelli can fit into that category.

The FIVB is getting younger. Staggeringly so on the women’s side. Just to get to the semifinals, Antonelli and Salgado had to play an American team, Sarah Sponcil and Kelly Claes, a combined 45 years old, and a Swedish team hardly any older. In a field featuring nearly a dozen 21-year-olds, there was even one not legally allowed to imbibe in the majority of Las Vegas’ infinite sources of entertainment, Latvia’s Tina Graudina, all of 20 years old.

The road for Salgado and Antonelli continued to stay young, with a semifinal matchup against Candians Brandie Wilkerson (26) and Heather Bansley (32). And it was there that the road hit a snag, when Bansley, the 2018 FIVB Defender of the Year, and Wilkerson, the FIVB Blocker of the Year, won 21-18, 22-24, 15-11 in a match that stretched more than an hour.

Shortly after, it was the equally precocious and fellow Canadians Melissa Humana-Paredes (26) and 32-year-old Olympian Sarah Pavan who cemented a spot in the all-Canada final, topping Brazil’s Ana Patricia Silva and Rebecca Cavalcanti, a duo of 20 and 25 years old, respectively.

Yes, there was, fittingly, for the setting, no shortage of youth here in Las Vegas, and the men’s side was of little difference, as Norwegian sensations Anders Mol and Christian Sorum – 21 and 22 years old, respectively – swept Americans Tri Bourne (29) and Trevor Crabb (29). On the other side of the bracket, the torrid Polish team of Grzegorz Fijalek and Michael Bryl survived a 21-13, 14-21, 15-11 slugfest with Russia’s new No. 1 of Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy.

It’s a final beach fans have become quite familiar with, as Norway has met the Polish in both Vienna and Hamburg, with the Beach Volley Vikings claiming both in straight sets.

“We saw them make adjustments in Hamburg,” Sorum said. “It gets harder each time.”