Brazilian volleyball star Mari Steinbrecher had her early beach volleyball debut this week during a National Tour stop in Ribeirao Preto as the 36-year-old veteran paired with Eduarda ‘Duda’ Lisboa to finish 17th.
The 2008 Beijing Olympic champion, who was planning to start her beach career only next year with former volleyball teammate Paula Pequeno, was invited by Duda as the 21-year-old defender could not have her regular partner Agatha Bednarczuk, who was rested by their coaching staff, by her side in her last tournament in 2019.
The temporary tandem had a promising start, winning a pair of qualification matches on Wednesday, but was on the wrong side of both of their three-set pool matches and failed to advance in the tournament on Thursday.
The chance of sharing the courts with one of the best players on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour in her debut, however, was not overlooked by Mari.
“It was a very positive experience,” Mari said. “Paula and I are training just three days each week as we’re still structuring our team, so even if I always want to win when I am on a court, I couldn’t expect much more than what we did. It was actually really nice to see that I’m not as far behind as I thought I was. Once we start training daily, as I did these past two weeks, I’m sure we’ll progress very fast.”
Mari’s blocking ability was the skill that stood out in each of her four matches. The 1.88m-tall player showed the potential to be an effective blocker, but she thinks there’s still a lot to improve in that regard.
“I think the actual blocking was good, I scored quite a few points and could feel our strategy was working,” she added. “I’m still struggling to decide when to stay at the net and try to block or to drop back and help in defence because that’s something I wouldn’t have to worry about in volleyball, but that will just come with time.”
For Duda it was also a nice experience to have an Olympic champion by her side for a couple of days.
“I tried to help her as much as I could and mainly keep her calm, but she did really well,” the defender analysed. “She’s been through a lot in the sport and is working hard to adjust as quickly as she can. It’s funny that I was the most experienced of us despite being only 21, but I also learned from her.”