05.07.2019 - Hamburg, Germany
When Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes hopped on a plane to Hamburg two weeks ago, they had one and only thing in mind – to erase their fourth-place finish at the 2017 World Championships in Vienna with a stronger performance at the Rothenbaum Stadium.
Now they’ve done it. But now that they booked their places in the final and secured Canada’s first-ever medal in the tournament, they have their eyes locked on the biggest prize.
“Coming off from where we were in Vienna two years ago, this is extra special and that’s why it means so much to us,” Melissa said. “We knew we wanted to be better than two years ago. That one stunk and it hit us really hard. This win is extra special and really emotional, but there’s still one more to go. We’ve been talking for a long time about putting us in position to be world champions, so it’s really a dream coming true.”
Emotions, for sure, were the mark of their thrilling three-set semi-final battle with Swiss young stars Nina Betschart and Tanja Hüberli. After the teams split the first two sets, with the Canadians taking the first 23-21 and the Europeans winning the second 21-17, Melissa and Sarah saw themselves just one point away from the final as they led the tie-breaker 14-10.
That’s when Hüberli took over and scored three of the next four points, tying the score 14-14. The Swiss had a match point in 17-16, which Sarah later revealed she didn’t notice at the time, but then the Canadians scored three in a row and sealed it with a block 19-17.
“We just looked at each other and smiled and said ‘ok, just one more,” the blocker said. “We’ve been in this position so many times before that we just trust each other. It’s fun and that’s why we play, for the excitement and the pressure because when we win it, feels so much better to know that we went through it.”
The last team standing between the Canadians and their World Championship dream is the one of April Ross and Alix Klineman, who topped Australians Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho in the other semi-final and will feature the first North American gold medal match of the event.
The Americans have been Melissa and Sarah’s nemesis in 2019 as they denied the Canadians their two title opportunities this year, taking gold at both the World Tour four-star event in Itapema and the American AVP event in Huntington Beach.
“Tomorrow will be better, tomorrow will be different,” Melissa remarked. “We know this team very well and we’ll need to play even better. It will be another battle.”