Modena, Italy, May 13, 2006 - For the 64th-time in 135 women’s SWATCH-FIVB World Tour events, Brazil and the United States will compete for a gold medal as second-seeded Juliana Felisberta and Larissa Franca and reigning Olympic and World champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh won semi-final matches here Saturday night at the US$200,000 Play Station Portable Italian Open to set up the title confrontation.
Played before a near-capacity crowd at the Foro Boario, the second-seeded Juliana and Larissa won the first “final four” match Saturday with a 21-13 and 21-15 win in the 45-minute over fourth-seeded Rachel Wacholder and Elaine Youngs, who were facing their third Brazilian team in the competition.
“That was our best match this season,” said the 22-year old Juliana, who has teamed with Larissa to win five of the first six Brazilian domestic events this season enroute to a 29-1 match mark in the South American country. “We served well, blocked well and played very good defense. We had a lot of chemistry together tonight.”
Americans May-Treanor and Walsh scored a 21-15 and 21-17 win in 36 minutes over 22nd-seeded Wang Jie and Tian Jia of China, who will play Wacholder and Youngs for the bronze medal as the United States attempts to secure two spots on podium with the young Brazilians.
With the help of May-Treanor and Walsh’s efforts on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour since 2001, the United States holds a 37-26 edge over the Brazilian women in gold medal matches.
May-Treanor and Walsh will be seeking their 22nd SWATCH gold medal with 18 of their previous 21 international titles coming with wins over Brazilians in the finales. Juliana and Larissa, the 2005 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour points champions, will be competing for their eighth international gold medal after winning six titles in 2005.
“It should be another great match between two very competitive teams,” said Walsh about the finale. “Juliana and Larissa have played extremely well this week. They are a very feisty team that competes hard for each point. We’ll have to be at our bests to beat them. It will be a hard-fought match.”
May-Treanor and Walsh have posted a 6-1 career mark against Juliana and Larissa with five of the seven meetings being for a SWATCH-FIVB World Tour. The Americans have won four of the title matches with Juliana and Larissa posting their only win over May-Treanor and Walsh last October in Acapulco when the two teams played in both the longest (100 minutes) and highest scoring match (164 points, 28-26, 40-42 and 15-13) in SWATCH history..
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 a day earlier. The SWATCH circuit returns to Europe May 31-June 4 in Athens (women) and Zagreb (men).