Modena, Italy, May 11, 2006 - Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh of the United States remained unbeaten in Beach Volleyball this season as the reigning Olympic and World Champions won a pair of matches here Thursday afternoon during the opening rounds of the US$200,000 Play Station Portable Italian Open.
With the two wins to improve their overall record of 13-0 this season with a 20-match winning streak, the top-seeded May-Treanor and Walsh face eighth-seeded Rebekka Kadijk and Merel Mooren of the Netherlands in their first match Friday in the 2006 women’s SWATCH-FIVB World Tour season opener.
May-Treanor and Walsh opened the 2006 season by winning a pair of domestic events in Florida and Arizona where they posted an 11-0 match mark. The Americans ended 2005 by winning seven-straight matches in South Africa to capture the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour season finale in Cape Town.
It will be the second meeting between the two teams as Americans posted a 22-20 and 21-8 win over Kadijk and Mooren last August in Klagenfurt, Austria. While May-Treanor and Walsh defeated teams from Italy and Germany Thursday, the Dutch scored back-to-back wins over a pair of Austrian teams that had to qualify for Play Station Portable Italian Open Main Draw in Wednesday qualifier.
“Misty is probably in the best shape since we started to playing together,” said Walsh, who left the United States National Volleyball team at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games to begin her Beach Volleyball career with May-Treanor in 2001. “This is only our third tournament this season, so we still have room for improvement with our game. But physically, we are both feeling great.”
Playing in only seven SWATCH-FIVB World Tour events in 2005, May-Treanor and Walsh captured six gold medals and finished second when Brazilians Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca defeated the Americans for the title in Mexico last October at Acapulco. The two teams met five times in 2005 with May-Treanor and Walsh winning for gold medal matches from the Brazilians in Berlin, Paris, Brazil and South Africa.
Juliana and Larissa, who captured the 2005 points title on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour by winning six events and setting a single-season earnings record ($409,750), play Thursday’s last match against 15th-seeded Makare Wilson and Tyra Turner of the United States. The Brazilian won their first match Thursday by forfeit over a team from China while Wilson and Turner defeated a French pair.
Like May-Treanor and Walsh, Juliana and Larissa start the international season after winning the last five domestic events in Brazil enroute to a 29-1 match mark. After losing the finale in the domestic opener February 5 in Joinville to Renata Ribeiro and Talita Antunes, Juliana and Larissa have won 20-straight matches.
The biggest upset in Thursday’s opening round was by the Nystrom twins (Erika and Emilia) as the 26th-seeded Finnish pair scored a 23-21 and 21-15 win over Jennifer Kessy Boss and Nancy Mason of the United States. With the win, the Nystroms challenge 23rd-seeded Rieke Brink-Abeler and Hella Jurich of Germany.
The first of 15 women’s events on the 2006 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour continues through Sunday when the medal matches will be played on the Foro Boario centre court. After Thursday’s schedule, 22 matches will be played Friday with six more matches Saturday. Sunday’s gold medal team will share the $32,000 first-place prize.
The Play State Portable SP Italian Open is being played at three sites, including the Foro Boario in Modena, the Piazza Re Astolfo in Carpi and the Piazza della Rosa in Sassulo. The Foro Boario in Modena will stage a bulk of the matches. Carpi is located 21 km (13 miles) northwest of Modena and Sassuolo is 19 km (12 miles) southwest of Modena.