Women's competition, Milan
From 1 September To 5 September 2004

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Country Quota Matches Start Alice Italian Open
Milan, Italy, September 1, 2004 - Country quota matches were played for Austria and host Italy here Wednesday afternoon as the Qualification Tournament for the US$180,000 Alice Italian Open began to determine the final eight spots in the 32-team Main Draw.

The 12th SWATCH-FIVB World Tour Beach Volleyball event of the 2004 season features 10 teams and four players from the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, including two-time Olympic silver medallists Adriana Behar and Shelda Bede of Brazil and Australia's Kerri Pottharst, who captured the gold medal with Natalie Cook at the Sydney 2000 Summer Games.

Advancing from country quota matches were the teams of 21st-seeded Magdalena Jirak and Kerstin Pichler of Austria and 22nd-seeded Omella Fumagalli and Roberta Marini of Italy. Jirak and Pichler defeated 14th-seeded Austrian rivals Jill Jasbar and Jasmin Moser 21-16 and 21-19 while Fumagalli and Marini ousted 20th-seeded Marika Menin and Margherita Reniero 21-11 and 21-17 in the Italian country quota match.

The qualifier continues Wednesday at 4 p.m. with the final match starting at 10 p.m. at the Arco della Pace (Arc of Peace) - Piazza Sempione. Other Wednesday matches from 4-7 p.m. will be splayed in front of the world famous Piazza del Duomo, the classical Gothic cathedral.

The 32-team Main Draw will start Friday morning with 40 matches in the double-elimination event where 16 teams will advance to Saturday's play to determine the "final four" pairings. Sunday's schedule includes both the semi-final and medal matches as the winning team will share the $27,000 first-place prize.

Led by Marie-Andree Lessard and Sarah Maxwell of Canada, the top eight seeds in the 26-team Qualification Tournament will not play until Thursday. The top-seeded Canadians won the Italy challenger last month in Cagliari where they defeated Italian Olympians Daniela Gattelli and Lucilla Perrotta 21-19, 16-21 and 15-12 in the semi-finals.

Gattelli and Perrotta, who placed fifth in the Athens Games after losing to Cook and Sanderson in the quarterfinals, lead Italy's eight entries in the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour event. Laura and Annamaria Solazzi, who competed in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, join Gattelli and Perrotta in the Main Draw along with Antonella Del Core and Caterina De Marinis.

Other Italians teams competing in the two-day qualifier are 13th-seeded Margherita Chiavaro/Manuela Malerba, 15th-seeded Gaia Cicola/Diletta Lunardi and 18th-seeded Cristiana Parenzan/Cristina Prosperi.