|FORTALEZA, BRAZIL, March 9, 2004 - Three teams from Brazil joined top-seeded Carrie Busch and Nancy Mason of the United States as Tuesday's earlier winners from the country quota matches in the 2004 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour season opener on Praia de Iracema.
Advancing from the seven-team Brazilian country quota round were fifth-seeded Talita Rocha and Tatiana Minello, 15th-seeded Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca, 22nd-seeded Ana Richa and Vanilda Santos Leão. The teams of Felisberta Silva/Franca and Ana Richa/Leão won both of their country quota matches while Rocha and Minello won two of three country quota matches.
The 34-team Qualification Tournament concludes Wednesday when eight teams advance to the Main Draw. With 13 of the 16 top-ranked women's teams from the 2003 season expected to compete, the 32-team double-elimination Main Draw starts Thursday with the final four teams advancing to Saturday's semi-final matches. The medal matches will be played Sunday where the Gold Medal team wins the $27,000 first-place prize.
Busch and Mason opened with a 21-14 and 21-19 win over 34th-seeded Paula Roca and Garcie Santana before out-lasting 18th-seeded Barbra Fontana and Jennifer Kessy 22-20 and 21-17 in the hot and humid weather in the capital of the north eastern Brazilian state of Ceara.
"This is our first match together in several years," said Mason, who is playing with Busch for the first-time since an international event in Brazil in 2000. "We felt we were in better condition against Fontana and Kessy. I think they were cramping up early in the match. We also were able to score better in the second game while being able to side-out consistently."
Fontana, who placed fourth in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games with Linda Hanley, was playing in her first international match outside of the United States since giving birth to a boy (Lucas) 10 months ago. "We were cramping a lot in the second game of the final match. We just couldn't run down any balls at the start of the second game due to our cramping."
Tuesday's country quota matches were hard for the 37-year old Ana Richa, who is playing with SWATCH-FIVB World Tour rookie Leão. "Qualifying is hard, but the Brazilian country quota matches are even harder," said Ana Richa. Thankfully, we were able to prevail, but we better have some gas left in the tank since this is only the first step."
Rocha and Minello, who were upset earlier in the day by Felisberta Silva and Franca 21-19, 14-21 and 15-11, advanced to the Qualification Tournament's single-elimination bracket by ousting second-seeded Alexandra Fonseca and Mônica Rodrigues 21-19 and 21-19 in the final country quota match. Alexandra and Mônica were also upset in an earlier match by Ana Richa and Leão 21-19 and 21-12.
The US$180,000 Brazilian Open continues the qualifying process for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. The process began last June in Greece and concludes July 11 when the 24 teams are determined for the August 14-24 Olympic Games in Athens. After this week's event, competition on the women's SWATCH-FIVB World Tour resumes May 19-23 in Rhodes, Greece followed by other Olympic qualifying events in China, Japan, Switzerland, Germany, Norway and Canada.