Image: Getty Images
By David McPherson
Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar are on a tear. A historically good tear.
When the Australian women’s beach volleyball stepped out onto the sand of the Coolangatta beach front for their first group match against Cyprus, they had had only lost one match ever as a pair.
It quickly became clear that they wouldn’t have a second. While Clancy and Del Solar covered the Coolangatta court with coordinated unison, one could be quick to assume the pair had been playing together for a lifetime.
In the reality the story is much different.
“We’ve only been playing a few months together,” Artacho del Solar says.
“But I think we have just a very strong connection and we both have a lot of trust in each other and in ourselves and I think that helps us bring our freedom and our flair in our game.”
It was in October last year that the Rio Olympians decided to give things a go, having played in separate pairs in Rio.
“We’re all based in Adelaide and we train together – looking forward to Tokyo my old partner Lou Bawden unfortunately she couldn’t commit [to the 2020 Games],” Clancy says.
“We [Clancy and Artacho del Solar] thought that we might just have a go and have a run and see how things go and they went really well, so we decided to stay together as a team…”
The decision was an inspired one – Clancy and Del Solar clicked. The wins came quickly and the pairing has been undefeated on the Asian and FIVB World Tour ever since.
“We have a strong belief and trust in each other so in any of those moments under pressure [if] we’re feeling it we just believe and have that trust that if we keep building that pressure it will pay off at the end,” Artacho del Solar says.
“We’ve only been playing a few months together, but I think we have just a very strong connection and we both have a lot of trust in each other and in ourselves and I think that helps us bring our freedom and our flair in our game.”
Clancy agrees that the connection is a good one, right down to the hugs and high-fives out on the court.
“It’s [the non-verbal connection] definitely more important in these stadiums because they’re so loud so we need to come together and sometimes it can’t be with voice so sometimes it’s eye contact and physical contact,” she says.
“We spend a lot of time on the road so it’s important for us to have a good connection and to really build a good team and good trust with each other.”