|BERLIN, GERMANY, June 24, 2004 - According to Danja Müsch, "nothing could be better than winning Beach Volleyball matches against your German rivals before your home country fans in the biggest event to date this season" on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour.
After posting two three-set match wins Wednesday during the opening Main Draw rounds in the Smart Grand Slam, the ninth-seeded Müsch and Suzanne Lahme posted their second-straight win over a German rival in the US$600,000 event here Thursday.
After defeating eighth-seeded Okka Rau and Stephanie Pohl 19-21, 23-21 and 15-7 Wednesday afternoon, Lahme and Müsch scored a 21-14 and 21-13 over 17th-seeded Andrea Ahmann and Jana Vollmer Thursday. All three teams are competing for a possible two German spots in the Olympics with Rau and Pohl the leaders followed now closely by Lahme and Müsch.
The win advanced Lahme and Müsch to the final round of the winner's bracket where they will play 12th-seeded Dalixia Fernandez Grasset and Tamara Larrea Peraza of Cuba at approximately 1 p.m. Friday for the first spot in Saturday's semi-finals.
The second semi-final qualifying match will pit second-seeded Adriana Behar and Shelda Bede of Brazil and third-seeded Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs of the United States at approximately 2 p.m. Friday. The losers of both those matches will still have a chance to advance to the "final four" with victories in the finals of the elimination bracket Friday afternoon.
"Due to this being a big event with the most points during this season's portion of the Olympic qualifying process, I think they had a lot more pressure on them," said Müsch, a 2000 Beach Volleyball Olympian. "After two tough matches yesterday against Brazil and our other German rivals, we felt more relaxed today. And, it is great to be playing only one match today."
With Rau and Pohl eliminated from the competition after losing to 23rd-seeded Efthalia Koutroumanidou and Vassiliki Arvaniti of Greece 18-21, 21-15 and 15-13, Lahme and Müsch has closed the gap between the two teams for Germany's possible two spots in the Olympic.
With a guaranteed fifth, Lahme and Müsch have now compiled 1,906 points for their best eight finishes on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour since the start of the Olympic qualifying process in January 2003. Rau and Pohl did not better their 2,058 point total and could be passed on the list if Lahme and Müsch place second or higher this weekend.
Ahmann and Vollmer will have to win the Smart Grand Slam to have a chance to catch the two front-running German women's on the qualification list for the 2004 Athens Games. With a guaranteed ninth this week, Ahmann and Vollmer have improved their Olympic total to 1,468 with two-plus events left in the process. Any match win Friday will improve their point total by 60 points.