Canadian beach volleyball duo Bansley, Wilkerson advance to quarter-finals at Tokyo Olympics

Canadian beach volleyball duo Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson advanced to the quarter-finals at the Tokyo Olympics with a 22-24, 21-18, 15-13 win over No. 3-ranked Americans Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil in their opening knockout match at Shiokaze Park on Sunday.

The No. 17 Canadians saw the opening set slip away despite a great start, regrouping to finish the job by claiming the second and third.

Bansley and Wilkerson improved to 2-2 in the tournament following the upset victory. Claes and Sponcil came into the match on a hot streak, having clinched first place in Pool D with a perfect 3-0 record.

Canada stormed out to a to a 7-3 lead in the opening set and continued their great start to take a commanding 11-6 advantage. Forced to dig deep, the Americans rallied back to make the score 14-13 before a miss from Wilkerson evened the score.

The teams continued to go back-and-forth, with four service errors preventing the Canadians from closing out the set. Claes secured set point to put the U.S. up 23-22, and an ensuing response from the Canadians fell short.

Momentum remained on the American’s side in the second set as they took a quick 4-0 lead, forcing Canada to burn a timeout in an effort to halt the surge. Canada weathered the initial storm and began to narrow the lead despite continued pressure from the opposition.

Bansley hammered one down the line to make it a 10-5 game, and a timely block from Wilkerson brought Canada within one.

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Canada levelled things up at 12 apiece, and it became clear that another tight finish would settle the set. Bansley put Canada up 17-16 before following it up with another point. An error from Claes put Canada in full control, and Wilkerson went on to close out the set with a powerful spike.

WATCH l CBC Sports’ The Olympians feature on Bansley and Wilkerson:

Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson overcome the doubts and adversity that arise in a partnership by being open and honest with each other as they work towards a common dream – success at the Olympics. 1:48

The two teams quickly found themselves deadlocked again in the third set, but Bansley came through once again to put Canada ahead with a 10-8 lead. The Canadian duo inched closer to victory with a 13-11 lead as the frustrated Americans argued a call with the line judge after a controversial review was initially ruled in their favour.

The U.S. team had its back against the wall, and Wilkerson cemented Canada’s place in the quarter-finals with the match-winning point.

Bansley and Wilkerson finished the group stage with a 1-2 record. They lost their opening match to the undefeated Chinese duo Wang Fan and Xia Xinyi, and they bounced back with a straight-sets win over Argentina before dropping their third to Brazil’s Ágatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda Santos Lisboa.

Canada’s other team in the tournament, Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes, are set to take on Spain tomorrow night in their first knockout match. The duo finished the group stage with a 3-0 record as the only team to not drop a set.

Bansley competed alongside Pavan at the previous Summer Olympics in Rio, where they lost their opening knockout match after going undefeated in the group stage.

The reigning world champions face Spain’s Liliana Fernández and Elsa Baquerizo tomorrow at 9 p.m. ET, and It will be streamed live on CBC Gem, the CBC Olympics app and CBC Sports’ Tokyo 2020 website.

WATCH | Pavan, Humana-Paredes pursuing Olympic history:

On this week’s episode of Team Canada Today, we go behind the scenes at training while Andi Petrillo tells you all you need to know about Olympic beach volleyball. 7:57