Canada’s Bansley, Bukovec win silver at Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour event in Brazil

Canada’s Heather Bansley and Sophie Bukovec secured a silver medal on Sunday after falling to Latvia in the final at the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Recife Challenge tournament in Recife, Brazil.

The No. 12-ranked pair of Anastasija Samoilova and Tina Graudina took gold in two tight sets (21-18, 21-17) over Canada.

The Canadians took down Slovenia and Brazil in the preliminary phase on Saturday before dispatching Germany 2-0 (21-16, 21-11) in the semifinals earlier on Sunday to punch their ticket to the gold-medal match.

Bansley of Waterdown, Ont., and Toronto’s Bukovec are Canada’s third-highest ranked women’s pair, sitting at 39th in the world, with Sunday’s silver-medal finish being their best since the Beach Pro Tour Futures Halifax event in September.

The two joined forces in July 2023 after two-time Olympian Bansley, 36, came out of retirement following her quarterfinal exit at the Tokyo Games in 2021 with then-partner Brandie Wilkerson.

Wilkerson and Melissa Humana-Paredes are currently Canada’s top-ranked duo (No. 4 in the world), while Canadians Sarah Pavan and Molly McBain are ranked 21st.

17 Paris Olympic qualification spots remain in both the women’s and men’s events for this summer, with high-level Beach Pro Tour events offering points toward those rankings.

The Canadian men’s pair of Sam Schachter of Richmond Hill, Ont., and Toronto’s Dan Dearing, ranked No. 30 in the world, finished fifth in Brazil after falling in the quarterfinals on Saturday to No. 31 Cuba.

Cuba’s Noslen Diaz and Jorge Alayo lost to Brazilians Evandro Gonçalves and Arthur Lanci 2-0 (21-15, 21-18) in the final.

Canadians MacNeil, Russell strike gold in Australia

Elsewhere in the beach volleyball world on Sunday, Canadians Jake MacNeil of Georgetown, Ont., and Alex Russell of Surrey, B.C., won gold over the hometown Australians 2-0 (21-19, 21-14) at the Beach Pro Tour Futures event in Coolangatta.

“We got second place here two years ago, so we felt like we needed to come back and get redemption,” said MacNeil to Volleyball Australia. “This is our absolute favourite beach; the people showed up and we’re just speechless right now.

“Alex makes my job super easy, he was an absolute monster in today’s final and he made my job easy. We’re just so grateful.”

The 65th-ranked pair also earned a medal this season at the Punta Cana Volleyball Classic in the Dominican Republic in September after falling to the United States in the gold-medal game.

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