|Porto Santo, Portugal, September 14, 2004 - Teams from Brazil, France, Germany and the Netherlands won Qualification Tournament matches as expected here Tuesday as the fourth annual FIVB U-21 World Championships for players under 21 years old opened at the new Beach Sports Stadium on Penedo do Sono.
The 12-team qualifier advanced four tandems from Tuesday's final matches to the women's Main Draw that starts Wednesday with the first of two days of pool play to determine the 16-team single-elimination bracket for Friday's first two rounds.
The mixed gender event runs through Saturday for the women. The men's Qualification Tournament starts Wednesday followed by four days of Main Draw play that concludes Sunday with the semi-final and medal matches. The event follows the FIVB U-18 World Championships for men and women in Termoli, Italy
Earning berths in the 24-team Main Draws were top-seeded Maria Antonelli/Nina Vieira of Brazil, second-seeded Katrin Holtwick/Maria Kleefisch of Germany, third-seeded Marion Castelli/Eva Hamzaoui of France and fourth-seeded Leonie Penninga/Roos Van der Hoeven of the Netherlands.
Holtwick and Kleefisch, the silver medallists at the 2003 FIVB U-21 World Championships in Saint Quay Portrieux, France, scored a 20-22, 21-17 and 15-9 win over 10th-seeded Chen Xue and Ni Yan, a pair of tall 15-year old Chinese women that placed ninth in last year's FIVB U-18 Worlds in Thailand.
"They don't play like a pair of 15 year olds," said the 20-year old Kleefisch. "They played well for the first set-and-a-half against us. I think our experience helped us out in the end. It helped them to play an earlier match today. We started very slowly. Once we figured them out, we began to play better and started to score some points. The Chinese girls have a great chance to play this sport for a long time. Their size can really help them."
Holtwick and Kleefisch had to qualify for the Main Draw as they lost their top spot in the German U-21 rankings to Sara Goller and Ilka Semmler. "They have played better than us this summer," said the 20-year old Holtwik. "We are not playing that bad and have posted some good results this year."
The young Germans placed ninth in June's European Senior Championships in Timmendorfer Strand, Germany. Both of their losses were to Athens 2004 Olympic teams, including a setback to eventual 2004 European Champions Nicole Schnyder and Simone Kuhn of Switzerland. Holtwick and Kleefisch are currently 21st on the European Beach ranking list.
Antonelli and Vieira advanced with a 21-12 and 22-20 win over eighth-seeded Magdalena Jirak and Natalie Pavelka of Austria. Penninga and Van der Hoeven eliminated fifth-seeded Grazziella Lo Re/Antonella Perrone of Italy 18-21, 21-16 and 15-11 while Castelli and Hamzaoui posted a 19-21, 21-12 and 15-9 win over sixth-seeded Galina Boyko/Yulia Veselova of Russia.