Chase Budinger & Miles Evans

Chase Budinger & Miles Evans won the all-American men’s final of the Haikou Challenge in China against Trevor Crabb & Theodore Brunner on Sunday to claim their first gold on the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour, both as a team and individually. Another American pair played for the remaining spot on the podium. However, the bronze went to Australia’s Thomas Hodges & Zachery Schubert.

Two Brazilian duos made it to the women’s podium in Haikou. Barbara Seixas & Carol Solberg picked up their fifth gold and overall ninth medal on the Beach Pro Tour, while Taina Bigi & Victoria Lopes took the bronze. In between them in the final standings, qualifiers Zhu Lingdi & Cao Shuting earned silver at their very first Challenge-level appearance as a pair and claimed the host country’s only medal at the event.

· Watch Beach Pro Tour Haikou Challenge replays on VBTV.

35-year-old Budinger and 33-year-old Evans entered the tournament as the fifth-seeded team in the men’s main draw bracket and went on a six-game winning streak on the way to the trophy, dropping only two sets along the way towards their second Beach Pro Tour medal, after the Saquarema Challenge silver in April. They were impeccable against their compatriots in the last two matches of their campaign, hammering out a semifinal shutout of 14th-seeded Chaim Schalk & Tri Bourne and a sweep of the gold medal game against top-seeded Crabb & Brunner. Budinger was the best scorer of the final adding two aces, three kill blocks and 19 spike kills to a match-high tally of 24 points.

Crabb Tr./Brunner vs. Evans/Budinger - Gold Match Highlights | Haikou 2023 #BeachProTour

38-year-old Brunner and 34-year-old Crabb secured their pair’s second Beach Pro Tour medal after a comeback semifinal victory over third-seeded Hodges & Schubert, capitalizing on abundant opponent errors and with Brunner shining on the block with five stuffs. They also reached the final without any setbacks, winning all five games along the way. Crabb & Brunner’s only previous medal on the Tour was the Espinho Challenge gold in July.

Hodges & Schubert went on to produce a win over Schalk & Bourne in the bronze medal match. It was the fifth Beach Pro Tour podium for 29-year-old Hodges and 27-year-old Schubert as a duo. Previously, the Aussies had one gold, two silvers and one bronze.

The only set top-seeded Barbara & Carol lost during the six matches of their Haikou Challenge campaign was the extended second set of their eighthfinal victory over France’s Aline Chamereau & Clemence Vieira. In the semifinals, the 36-year-old South Americans mastered a sweep of the all-Brazilian duel with seventh-seeded Taina & Victoria. They were even more convincing in the gold medal game, delivering a shutout of 20th-seeded Zhu & Cao. Carol impressed with six aces and four kill blocks towards a match-high 18 points. Barbara & Carol’s Beach Pro Tour collection now contains five gold, three silver and one bronze medals.

Carol/Barbara vs. Zhu Lingdi/Sh. T. Cao - Gold Match Highlights | Haikou 2023 #BeachProTour

Meanwhile, the Haikou silver was the first medal for 30-year-old Zhu and 22-year-old Cao as a pairing. The duo made their Beach Pro Tour debut at October’s Mallorca Futures, where they finished fourth, and this week’s event in China was their second tournament. Zhu & Cao started the tournament as the fourth-seeded team in the qualification bracket. They lost their first main draw match to Tokyo 2020 Olympic bronze medallists Joana Mader & Anouk Verge-Depre of Switzerland deep into the overtime of a hard-fought tie-breaker set, but then went on a four-match winning run, crowned by a semifinal win over Lithuania’s Monika Paulikiene & Aine Raupelyte, with Cao leading the way with 16 points, including two aces and three blocks.

28-year-old Taina and 24-year-old Victoria also defeated the 11th-seeded Lithuanians in straight sets, , in the third-place match to earn their third Beach Pro Tour medal, after the La Paz Challenge bronze and the Saquarema Challenge silver earlier this year.