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

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Birthday Joy, Disappointment & Puerto Rican Success
CAROLINA, PUERTO RICO, June 11, 2004 - For Julien Prosser and Colin Pocock, Friday's opening rounds of this week's US$180,000 Carolina Open provided joy for one and disappointment for the other as both Beach Volleyball players celebrated their 32nd birthday on the Balneario de Carolina.

While the players and officials on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour helped celebrate the two birthdays, the supportive Puerto Rican crowd cheered local favourites Ramon Hernandez and Raul Papaleo, who advanced to Saturday's play with victories over teams from Switzerland the United States.

Mark Williams helped Prosser, a 2000 Olympian, celebrate the day as the fourth-seeded tandem defeated Australians defeated teams from Puerto Rico and Austria to advance to a winner's bracket match against 12th-seeded Pedro Cunha and Pará Ferreira of Brazil Saturday morning.

After starting Friday with birthday wishes, Pocock and partner Gershon Rorich dropped a pair of matches to teams from Japan and the United States. Despite the two losses, Pocock and Rorich still improved their Olympic qualifying point total 150 as they compete with Mario Silva and Miguel Xisto of Angola for the continent of Africa's spot in the Athens Games.

"Until meeting Pocock, I don't know if I knew anyone that was ever born on the same day as me," said Prosser, who has teamed with Williams to finish fifth in the last two SWATCH-FIVB World Tour events as the Aussies missed the first three events due to injuries. "We are playing well right now and tomorrow's first match will be tough against another quality Brazilian opponent."

Cunha, who celebrated his 21st birthday Thursday, and Pará defeated Silva and Xisto in their first match Friday before out-lasting fellow Brazilians Fred Souza and Harley Marques 21-23, 24-22 and 18-16 in 87 minutes. Cunha and Pará finished third in last month's international stop in China.

Hernandez and Papaleo's win over eighth-seeded Dain Blanton and Jeff Nygaard of the United States guaranteed the Puerto Ricans a ninth-place finish this week as they seek to become the country's first-ever Olympic volleyball participants. In defeating the Americans 21-19 and 22-20, Hernandez and Papaleo trailed in both sets 19-18. Papaleo had service winners for the last two points of the first set. He also scored a "lucky" let serve to ignite the second set rally.

"We had a little luck in the second match," said Hernandez, who was congratulated by an appreciative crowd after the match. "Raul's serving made the difference, and sometimes, you have to take advantage of your lucky breaks. We never quit and played hard throughout the match. That was a big win for us."

Saturday's action opens with Hernandez and Papaleo challenging top-seeded Benjamin Insfran and Marcio Araujo of Brazil in the first of four winner's bracket matches at 8:30 a.m. Four teams advance from Saturday's 18-match schedule to Sunday's semi-finals. Sunday's gold medal winners will share the $27,000 first-place prize.