|FORTALEZA, BRAZIL, March 14, 2004 - Larissa Franca and Juliana Felisberta Silva of Brazil completed their "remarkable" week on the Praia de Iracema by defeating fourth-seeded Jia Tian and Fei Wang of China 24-22 and 21-9 to capture the Bronze Medal in the 2004 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour season opener.
With the win, the 28th-seeded Brazilians shared the US$14,000 third-place prize. Larissa and Juliana finished the women's beach volleyball Brazilian Open with a 9-2 match mark after winning five of seven Main Draw matches with their only two setbacks being to the teams playing for Sunday's Gold Medal.
Brazil's Shelda Bede and Adriana Behar, looking for their first SWATCH-FIVB World Tour since 2002, challenge top-seeded Misty May and Kerri Walsh of the United States for the $27,000 first-place prize. Sunday's meeting will be the 18th-meeting between the two teams with May and Walsh leading 10-7.
An overflowing crowd of more than 4,000 watched the Bronze Medal action on the Praia de Iracema centre court where lines for stadium entrance were formed at 5 a.m. to watch Sunday's medal matches in the US$180,000 Brazilian Open.
In the second-set of the Bronze Medal match, the Brazilians led from the start and jumped to leads of 6-1, 10-4, 13-5 and 19-8 before scoring the final three points to complete their domination of the highly-regarded Jian Tian and Fei Wang. The point spread between the two teams in the 25-minute first set was never more than two points with the opening game tied at 18s, 19s, 20s, 21s and 22s. Juliana scored the final two points, including a block of Fei Wang to end the set.
"Give the Brazilians a lot of credit," said Jia Tian said after the her team's eighth match of the Brazilian Open. "They matched us point-for-point in the first set and they never stopped putting pressure on us. We just ran out of gas in the second set and could not find our rhythm."
Larissa and Juliana, who had to survive a seven-team Brazilian country quota playoff Tuesday before winning two Qualification Tournament elimination matches to earn a spot in the Main Draw," were "awed" with their finish. "You always expect the best, but we never dreamed that we could earn a place on the podium with two of the top teams in the world, said Juliana.
The last time a seed as low as 28th made the semi-finals in a SWATCH-FIVB World Tour event was when Alexandra Fonseca and Monica Rodrigues of Brazil placed fourth in the June 2002 in Madrid, Spain. "I think we earned a lot of respect this week," said Larissa, who won the Bronze Medal at the 2003 Pan American Games with Ana Richa. "We never wilted in the first set and played perfect in the second set against a quality team."