Lions volleyball pair reach new heights in world beach volleyball

York Lions volleyball player Paul Podstawka and incoming York student Chris Simek are entering uncharted territory.

Podstawka and Simek became the first all-York beach volleyball team to qualify for the main draw of an FIVB World Tour event Wednesday when they beat Florian Huth and Kjell Schneider of Germany 2-0 (21-14, 21-18) in the final qualifying round at the Open of Portugal. Podstawka, 22, and Simek, 24, will play an opening-round match today, giving Canada three teams in the main draw. They were seeded 28th in the 42-team qualifying draw.

“When you take everything into consideration, the number of countries playing and the number of years it takes to get to the highest level, Chris and Paul are neophytes and they are just starting to make an impact,” said Lions men’s volleyball head coach Wally Dyba. “To me, this is a very significant accomplishment.”

Podstawka (Ancaster, Ont.) and Simek (Washago, Ont.) teamed up last year to win the under-24 national championship. They entered International Volleyball Federation qualification tournaments in Italy and Croatia before winning three rounds in Portugal to earn a ticket to the main draw.

Podstawka was a second-team Ontario University Athletics all-star for York last year, helping the Lions advance to the conference’s Final Four for a fifth consecutive season.