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2018-03-02 22:32:00 CET

Lupo/Nicolai triumph in Italian derby

Olympic silver medalists on a roll in Florida

Nicolai (right) and Lupo are focused on winning gold in FloridaNicolai (right) and Lupo are focused on winning gold in Florida

It was a good day to be Italian at the 600,000 USD Fort Lauderdale Major in Florida as two of the country’s biggest beach volleyball teams went head-to-head.

In a dramatic last 16 tie, and with a quarterfinal place at stake, it was 2016 Olympic silver medalists Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai who fought back to beat fellow Italians Alex Ranghieri and Marco Caminati.

Ranghieri and Caminati had, earlier in the day, stunned World Champions Evandro Gonçalves de Oliveira Junior and Andre Loyola Stein by producing a superb performance with Ranghieri bossing the net with 13 blocks.

In the Italian derby, it had looked as if a place in the last eight would go the way of Ranghieri/Caminati, as the wildcards took the first set 21-18 against the reigning European champions Lupo/Nicolai. However, the Olympics 2016 runners-up stormed back to take the second set 21-17 and then won the decider 15-6.

Daniele and Paolo are now one win away from a place in the semifinals as they aim to become the first European team to win a gold medal in an FIVB World Tour event on American sand in 22 years.

Winning blocker Nicolai was thrilled to get through after such a tough battle against familiar opponents.

“We feel great because it was a difficult match and they had just beaten the World Champions in the morning,” said the 29-year-old from Ortona. “We knew we had to focus on every ball because we know they are dangerous opponents.

“It was the first time we had played this team and we know a bit about them – we train in the same place and occasionally play a friendly match.

“I was really impressed with Marco. He’s new to the World Tour but he looked like he had been playing for years, like an expert.

“It’s great to have two good Italian teams on the tour because a lot of players in Italy will see this result and speak about it. It’s important for Italy and especially for us.”

Lupo/Nicolai will play their quarterfinal match on the Red Bull Beach Arena center court at a time to be decided on Saturday, March 3. It’s a game you’ll be able to watch live on BeachStream on www.beachmajorseries.com.

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