On Saturday evening, after one of the most titanic defensive battles in recent memory, waged between Kristen Nuss and Melissa Humana-Paredes in the quarterfinals of the Montreal Elite16, the Canadian defender took the mic, a 15-8 third-set victory in hand, and addressed the crowd.
“You guys single-handedly get us two to three points a set,” the 30-year-old Humana-Paredes said.
They’d need all of the help they could get, Humana-Paredes and Brandie Wilkerson. Their gold medal run at this weekend’s Montreal Elite16 was about as difficult as a team can possibly make it. They dropped the first match of the weekend, to Katja Stam and Raisa Schoon of the Netherlands, and after breaking pool, they’d require four consecutive three-set victories. Some of those victories, take their ninth-place slugfest with Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes, required more than a simple comeback.
Down 4-8 in the third, all seemed lost for Canada. Already, the lone men’s team in the tournament, Sam Schachter and Dan Dearing, had been eliminated, and Sarah Pavan and Molly McBain had bowed out as well. Here they were, seven points from elimination while staring down a four-point deficit to the second-ranked team in the world, the same team that had flipped a 4-8 third-set deficit to Wilkerson and Humana-Paredes in the Gstaad Elite16 at the beginning of the month.
That ninth-place match would be the onset of the theme of the weekend for Humana-Paredes and Wilkerson, a motif of just finding a way, any way, to get the ball to the sand. They’d survive that match against Cheng and Hughes, winning 17-15, fending off a pair of match points in the process. Then they’d survive again against Nuss and Kloth, bouncing back from a 14-21 second-set loss to win, 15-8. They’d do it again in Sunday morning’s semifinals, recovering from a 17-21 second-set loss to China’s Chen Xue and Xinyi Xia to win the third, 15-11.
But when the finals rolled around, and the crowd was rollicking, and in came a limping, exhausted, and battered Betsi Flint and Julia Scoles, it seemed that, alas, a third set wouldn’t be needed. That, finally, a stress-free victory could be had. A 21-15 first set, as smooth a set as you’ll see from Wilkerson and Humana-Paredes, appeared to set the tone. Whatever magic Flint and Scoles had packed to Canada seemed used up, emptied from an epic quarterfinal comeback win over world No. 1 Ana Patricia Silva and Duda Lisboa and a pair of…