Modena, Italy, May 12, 2006 - The United States is guaranteed a “final four” spot with Brazil and China competing for a second semifinal berth as the three countries posted victories in the third-round of the winner’s bracket here Friday afternoon at the US$200,000 Play Station Portable Italian Open.
With 75 teams from 26 countries competing in the women’s Beach Volleyball season opener on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour, reigning Olympic and World Champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh face American rivals Rachel Wacholder and Elaine Youngs in the first quarterfinal match under the lights at the Foro Boario.
In the second quarterfinal match Friday, 22nd-seeded Wang Jie and Tian Jia of China challenge second-seeded Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca of Brazil, who finished as the top team on the 2005 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour with six gold medal finishes and a record $409,750 in team winnings.
All four teams are 3-0 in the competition as May-Treanor and Walsh scored a 21-17 and 21-15 win over eighth-seeded Rebekka Kadijk and Merel Mooren from the Netherlands in their first match Friday. The win was Americans 11th-straight on the SWATCH tour as the pair posted a 44-2 record last season by winning six of their seven international starts.
One of May-Treanor and Walsh’s losses in their last 57 SWATCH starts since the start of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games was to Wacholder and Youngs at last season’s grand slam stop in Paris. Seeded fourth in the Play Station Portable Italian Open, Wacholder and Youngs gained a spot in the quarters with a 21-16 and 21-16 win over the 12th-seeded Salgado (Carolina and Maria Clara) sisters of Brazil.
Juliana and Larissa, who handed May-Treanor and Walsh their second defeat last season in the Mexican finale in Acapulco, advanced with a 21-17 and 21-12 win over the 26th-seeded Nystroms (Emilia and Erika) while third-seeded Renata Ribeiro and Talita Antunes of Brazil were upset by Wang Jie and Tian Jia 29-27 and 21-19.
While the Brazilian-Chinese match will be the first meeting between the two teams, the Americans have faced each other 22 times. May-Treanor and Walsh lead the series 18-4 with six-straight wins. Internationally, Wacholder and Youngs’ only victory in six matches was a 21-18, 13-21 and 15-11 in the Paris grand slam last July.
Eight other teams remain in the double-elimination event with one defeat each. Following Friday’s play, competition resumes Saturday morning with the last four elimination matches along with the two semi-finals. The eighth annual Play Station Portable Italian Open concludes Sunday when the final two teams compete for the $32,000 first-place prize. Round two on the women’s SWATCH-FIVB World Tour will be staged May 24-28 in Shanghai where the men open their international season.