World champions Pavan, Humana-Paredes to play for Cancun beach volleyball title

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Toronto's Melissa Humana-Paredes, left, and Sarah Pavan of Kitchener, Ont., will be vying for a seventh beach volleyball title together in their 12th World Tour final when they face Talita Antunes and Taiana Lima of Brazil on Tuesday at 5 p.m. ET in Cancun, Mexico. (Submitted by FIVB - image credit)
Toronto's Melissa Humana-Paredes, left, and Sarah Pavan of Kitchener, Ont., will be vying for a seventh beach volleyball title together in their 12th World Tour final when they face Talita Antunes and Taiana Lima of Brazil on Tuesday at 5 p.m. ET in Cancun, Mexico. (Submitted by FIVB - image credit)

Reigning world champions Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes will get a second chance in a little over a month to win a beach volleyball gold medal on the World Tour.

The Canadian duo will be vying for a seventh title together in their 12th World Tour final when they face Talita Antunes and Taiana Lima of Brazil on Tuesday at 5 p.m. ET in Cancun, Mexico.

They defeated Germany's Chantal Laboureur and Cinja Tillmann in Monday's semifinal by scores of 21-16 and 21-14 after prevailing two sets to one in an earlier matchup in pool play.

"Having a couple of days under our belts to play in these [hot and windy conditions], we really narrowed down our game,", Humana-Paredes said in a story on the tournament website. "I think our serving has gotten them in trouble and Sarah's blocking was phenomenal. They're a really strong ball-control team and we knew we had to put pressure on them from the baseline, which we did.

"It's really good for our confidence that we're in the final again. We still have a lot of things that we want to improve on and it's very promising that we're getting to finals and there's still another level that we can bring."

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Antunes and Lima, like Pavan and Humana-Paredes, advanced to the final with five consecutive victories. The Brazilians beat compatriots Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda 'Duda' Lisboa 21-14, 10-21, 15-13 in the semifinals.

Antunes and Lima have won five of the eight finals they have played together over two stints as partners, between 2013-2014 and in 2019. They are playing together in the Cancun Hub tournaments because Maria Elisa Antonelli, Antunes' regular playing partner, is home building up her fitness after giving birth to her first son last year.

Antunes' most recent match against Pavan and Humana-Paredes was in 2017.

"They [have] improved so much since then," she said. "It will be a difficult match but as long as we keep playing with the same energy and the same union, I think we have what it takes to win."

On March 12, the Canadians won silver at the Katara Beach World Cup in Doha, Qatar, their first major international competition in 19 months. On their way to the podium, Pavan and Humana-Paredes fought back from a first-set loss to fellow Canadians Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson to win 21-18 and 15-9.

In Monday's quarter-finals at the Playa Delfines, Pavan and Humana-Paredes swept Bansley and Wilkerson 2-0 (21-12, 22-20).

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Pavan and Humana-Paredes, the FIVB world ranking leaders, improved to 7-2 in the head-to-head matchup and plan to compete in at least four more tournaments over the next two months.

After a first-set loss in the quarter-finals, it was Bansley and Wilkerson's turn at being resilient after falling behind 12-4 in the second set when the former hit the ball into the net.

Bansley then stepped up her service game and they closed to within a point at 15-14 and later 18-17 before a Bansley ace tied the set 19-19. After Pavan and Humana-Paredes went up 20-19 on a handling call to Bansley, she evened matters with a kill.

6th in provisional Olympic rankings

Pavan and Humana-Paredes took the match following a missed serve by Wilkerson and Humana-Paredes ace, with the ball landing on the line.

Bansley and Wilkerson jumped out to a 2-0 advantage in the opening set but never held the lead again after Pavan made it 2-2 with an ace.

Leading 13-8, Pavan and Humana-Paredes scored six of the next eight points, with Pavan sending a kill deep inside the back line to make it 19-10 on the way to victory.

Bansley and Wilkerson, who placed ninth in Doha, are sixth in the provisional Olympic rankings and likely will qualify.

The plan is to return to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where they have trained for several months or perhaps head to Hermosa Beach, Calif., where several top American teams and other federations are training.

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