By Nathan Engel
SOFIA, Bulgaria – American duo Michelle Skowzgird and Shana Lehmann cranked up the heat on the beach volleyball sands Friday at the National Sport Academy, soundly defeating Kezban Ates and Yeter Yalcin of Turkey in straight sets, 21-13, 21-9.
“We closed our Deaflympics run together really well today,” Skowzgird said. “We had a strong performance overall. We executed the game plan well with a lot of aces, good digs and solid kills.”
With the win, the American women finished seventh.
In the men’s consolation bracket, Americans Michael Bruning and Eric Vincent took on Jussi Ahola and Antti Ropponen of Finland for fifth place.
Bruning and Vincent got off to a rough start in the first set and lost, 21-12. In the second set, they rebounded to win, 21-17, but were unable to pull out the final set and lost, 15-10, to take sixth place.
As Lehmann and Skowzgird reflected on the week’s competition, they said they felt very positive about their Deaflympic experience as a whole.
“I just wish that we could have trained a lot more together earlier leading up to the competition, especially against tougher competition,” Skowzgird said. “We probably could have done better, but I’m satisfied with how we closed out.”
Everything that they went through was a rewarding journey, they said, and they would not change anything about it.
“I’m proud of my girls. They played their last game here and came away with a win. It was a solid, clean all-around game,” Coach Dyan Kovacs said.
The duo said the U.S. deaf beach volleyball program could be much better with proper training and investment.
Skowzgird said after she gets home from Sofia, she wants to help raise the bar for beach volleyball for future international competitions.