Men's competition, Carolina
From 9 June To 13 June 2004

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Veteran Franco Gains 43rd "Final Four" Berth
CAROLINA, PUERTO RICO, June 12, 2004 - Franco Neto, one of the winningest players on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour, gathered another "final four" berth in his illustrative Beach Volleyball career here Saturday as he teamed with Tande Ramos to win a pair of matches in the US$180,000 Carolina Open.

In rallying from a 21-12 first set loss to 11th-seeded Andrew Schacht and Joshua Slack, the second-seeded Brazilians captured the next two sets 21-19 and 15-10 to win the 75-minute over the Australians to advance to Sunday's semi-finals in the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour.

In gaining his 43rd career "final four" berth, Franco will be seeking his 16th pro beach title. Playing together for the first-time this season on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour, Franco and Tande won March's South African Open. After winning the Cape Town event, the Brazilians have finished 17th, seventh and ninth in the last three international stops.

Brazil also gained another spot in the semi-finals when top-seeded Marcio Araujo and Benjamin Insfran were upset by 12th-seeded Pedro Cunha and Pará Ferreira 17-21, 21-17 and 15-9 in a 58-minute All-Brazilian match.

Cunha and Pará will also be competing in their second "final four" this season after placing third in China last month. "We are the kings of the three-setters today," said Cunha, who saw his team defeated fourth-seeded Julien Prosser and Mark Williams of Australia 21-19, 11-21 and 15-12 Saturday morning.

Brazilian still has a chance for three semi-final berths as Marcio Araujo and Benjamin face an elimination match in Saturday's last match against either a team from Argentina or the United States..

"Once we figured out the Australian's play-making and started to concentrate better on the court, we started to have success," said the 37-year old Franco, who is playing here for the third-time in his career with a fourth and seventh in his previous two Puerto Rican events. "The Australians are much-improved and very competitive. We had no chance in the first set due to our concentration.

The Carolina Open, presented by GlaxoSmithKline, also marked the 100th SWATCH-FIVB World Tour event for Franco. After giving up soccer to play volleyball, Franco started competing on the beach in 1986. The 2004 season marks Franco's 15th-season on the international beach scene.

Franco currently ranks fifth for both career FIVB titles (15) and earnings ($617,723). A gold medal finish Sunday would move him into fourth place in career international earnings as he would pass former partner Roberto Lopes ($624.473).

The Carolina Open concludes Sunday with four matches. The gold medal winners will share the $27,000 first-place prize. After the Caribbean stop this week, the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour returns to Europe for the final four Olympic qualifying events in Switzerland, Germany, Norway and Mallorca.