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Canada's Pavan, Humana-Paredes remain perfect at Tokyo Olympics with 3rd straight-sets win

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Canadian duo Melissa Humana-Paredes, left, and Sarah Pavan celebrate after earning a straight-sets (21-13, 24-22) victory over Switzerland's Joana Heidrich and Anouk Vergé-Dépré on Thursday in Tokyo. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images - image credit)
Canadian duo Melissa Humana-Paredes, left, and Sarah Pavan celebrate after earning a straight-sets (21-13, 24-22) victory over Switzerland's Joana Heidrich and Anouk Vergé-Dépré on Thursday in Tokyo. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images - image credit)

Canadian beach volleyball duo Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes remained undefeated at the Tokyo Olympics with a straight-sets (21-13, 24-22) victory over Switzerland's Joana Heidrich and Anouk Vergé-Dépré on Thursday in Tokyo.

With both teams entering the match with a perfect record in Pool A, the contest decided who would take top spot heading into the knockout stage. The top two teams from each of the six pools, plus the two best third-place teams, advance directly to the single-elimination round of 16. The remaining third-place teams play in the "lucky loser" round to determine the final two spots in the knockout round.

The Canadian duo improved to 3-0 in the tournament, finishing pool play without dropping a set. The Swiss responded with a stronger performance in the second set and managed to save four match points, but a timely block from the six-foot-five Pavan gave Canada the win.

WATCH | Pavan, Humana-Paredes remain undefeated at Tokyo 2020:

"Going into the match, we expected it to be really back and forth. And after the first set, it was pretty one-sided, we knew that they were going to refocus and come back much stronger in the second and they did," Pavan said.

"I think we needed that. We needed to be pushed and we needed to be really close to get us ready for playoffs. This was an incredibly difficult pool. Every single team in this group is very talented and to come out of this 3-0, in first place, we're so excited about it."

Pavan racked up nine attack points, and her physical presence had an enormous impact once again. Humana-Paredes had seven successful digs and seven attack points.

The reigning world champions took a commanding 11-6 lead early in the opening set, frustrating the Swiss and forcing them to commit uncharacteristic errors.

Switzerland started to find their footing and notched an ace to temporarily shift momentum, but the Canadians quickly began to pull away en route to a 21-13 opening-set victory. Pavan clinched the set for Canada with a powerful spike, prompting an immediate celebratory yell from Humana-Paredes.

The Swiss responded by taking an 8-5 lead to start the second set, but it wasn't long before the Canadians re-established their rhythm and began to claw back, tying the match at 10 apiece.

A back-and-forth battle ensued until Pavan came through with a block to help put Canada in position to close things out. But Switzerland dug their heels in and saved two match points before firing back an ace to tie it up 20-20.

Switzerland saved two more match points but were unable to overcome the Canadian pressure, as Pavan secured the 24-22 victory in the second set with another highlight block.

The Canadians continue to shine on the biggest stage after facing uncertainty during the pandemic. They were coming off a victory over Germany's Julia Sude and Karla Borger after starting the tournament with a win against Katja Stam and Raisa Schoon of the Netherlands

"This is the moment that we've been leading up for and I think we prepared extremely well, both physically and mentally, to show up the way we're showing up right now, " Humana-Paredes said.

"Sometimes you doubt the process but I think this is a great example of trusting the process the whole way through and knowing that even when things get difficult and through all the adversity, things will come together when they're meant to come together."

Pavan and Humana-Paredes are the No. 1-ranked team in the world, and they are embracing their role as tournament favourites.

"I don't think it adds any pressure," Pavan said. "We have been very transparent about our goals and our objectives since day one, and that hasn't changed."

Fellow Canadian duo Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson are 1-1 after bouncing back from their opening match loss, and they are set to take on Brazil's Ágatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda Santos Lisboa tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. ET.

The match will be will be streamed live on CBC Gem, the CBC Olympics app and CBC Sports' Tokyo 2020 website.

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