|FORTALEZA, BRAZIL, March 13, 2004 - Top-seeded Misty May and Kerri Walsh led for most of their two sets here Saturday with fourth-seeded Jia Tian and Fei Wang of China as the American women scored a 21-19 and 21-19 win to advance to the Gold Medal match in the 2004 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour season opener on the Praia de Iracema.
After posting their 33-straight win on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour, May and Walsh will play the winner of the All-Brazilian match between second-seeded Shelda Bede and Adriana Behar and 28th-seeded Larissa Franca and Juliana Felisberta Silva of Brazil Sunday morning for the $27,000 first-place prize.
In advancing to 18th SWATCH-FIVB World Tour Gold Medal match in 38 international beach volleyball starts, May and Walsh broke from a 1-1 tie in the first set to take leads of 6-2 and 18-13 before Jia Tian and Fei Wang made it interesting with a 6-2 run to cut the edge to 20-19. A dig and kill by Walsh ended the 20-minute set.
May and Walsh, who have captured 11 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour Gold Medals since 2001, trailed 3-1, 4-2, 5-3 in the second set before tying the set at 6-6 and 7-7 before taking an 8-7 lead. Jia Tian and Fei Wang tied the set again before May and Walsh built 10-8, 12-9 and 18-14 leads. The China women rallied to score five of the next points before a technical error by Fei Wang (reaching over the net) ended the match.
"We were ready to play today, said May after the match. "The Chinese women have a great service game and we allowed only a few service winners. We did not over-pass the serve and was able to side out consistently."
Walsh felt the Americans "controlled the match throughout. Like Misty said, we were about to handle their serve and make very few mistakes. Once we got the leads (18-13 and 18-14) in both sets, we became a little tentative. Give the Chinese credit, they do not give up. They play hard until the last point."
Fei Wang was "pleased" with her team's effort. "For the first tournament of the season, we have found a good rhythm. We made some costly mistakes against the Americans during the middle part of both sets. Against the quality teams, you can not make mistakes."