|Termoli, Italy, September 9, 2004 - Qualifying tournaments are usually for the least ranked teams in Beach Volleyball, but that wasn't the case here Thursday as three teams from Wednesday's preliminary rounds won matches during the opening pool play round in the men's FIVB U-18 World Championships.
For teams with players under 18 years old, the third annual FIVB U-18 World Championships saw qualifying teams from Brazil, Poland and Lithuania score victories Thursday to gain a share of the lead in their pools entering Friday's final two rounds to determine the field for the 16-team elimination bracket. The mixed gender event ends Sunday with the semi-finals and medal matches.
Arunas Kirsnys and Arvydas Miseikis of Lithuania scored a 21-9, 14-21 and 16-14 win over sixth-seeded Gabriele Parisi and Andrea Russo of Italy to tie for the Pool L lead with seventh-seeded Kjetil Storeboe and Sigmund Wergeland of Norway with 1-0 marks.
"We played very well in the first set, but struggled in the second set," said Miseikis after the match. "Give the Italians credit for playing hard in the final two sets. They got stronger as the match progressed. Thankfully, we were able to play mistake-free at the end. I think playing in the qualifier helped us today as we also played a very tough team yesterday."
The Lithuanians upset Tobias Kook and Stefan Windscheif of Germany, the No. 2-seeded tandem in the nine-team qualifier, 21-13 and 21-18 to earn a berth in the Main Draw. Windscheif had placed fourth in the European U-18 Championships last month in Poland, but with Jonathan Erdmann. Kirsnys and Miseikis placed fifth European event.
Other qualifiers winning pool play matches Thursday were Rodrigo Bernat and Diogo Pontes of Brazil and Grzegorz Fijalek and Grzegorz Pajak of Poland. Tim Oude Elferink and Jeroen Van der Linden of the Netherlands, who also qualified Wednesday, dropped their opening match to top-seeded Andrea Collini and Pietro Pezzi of Italy 21-19 and 21-12 in Pool G.
In an All-Brazilian Pool H match, the 23rd-seeded Bernat and Pontes posted a 21-17, 8-21 and 15-11 win over second-seeded Guilherme Ferreira and Roberto Pitta. In Pool K, the 20th-seeded Fijalek and Pajak scored a 21-14 and 21-16 win over fifth-seeded Sam Boehm/Shaun Howard of Australia.
Bernat and Pontes, the top-seeded team in the qualifier, plays European U-18 Champions Zbigniew Bartman and Michal Kubiak of Poland Friday morning. Bartman and Kubiak scored a 21-2 and 21-5 win over 14th-seeded Luca De Luigi and Alessandro Gennari of San Marino Thursday.
Fijalek and Pajak, the bronze medalists in the European Championships, face eighth-seeded Joseph Dykstra and Mark Van Zwieten of the United States in the first of two Friday matches for both teams. The Americans defeated 17th-seeded Pavlos Kouzounis and Charlampos Papadopoulos of Greece 21-11 and 21-16 Thursday afternoon on the Rio Vivo Beach Centre Court.
Marko Kienast and Thilo Späth of Germany, the silver medalists at the European U-18 finals, posted a 21-10 and 21-11 Pool I win Thursday over 22nd-seeded Frane Zanic and Domagoj Zelic of Croatia. The Germans play 15th-seeded Baptiste Geiler and Renaud Ventresque of France (15), who downed 10th-seeded Reid Hall and Adam Podstawka of Canada 21-17 and 21-16.