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

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Israeli Pair Nets Alice Italian Open Qualifying Win
Milan, Italy, September 1, 2004 - There was something "special" for Einav Muharer and Gisela Rodriguez here Wednesday evening as the Israeli pair won a qualifying match in the opening round of the Qualification Tournament for the US$180,000 Alice Italian Open.

Seeded 15th in the 26-team SWATCH-FIVB World Tour qualifier, Muharer and Rodriquez scored a 21-16 and 21-17 win over 22nd-seeded Omella Fumagalli and Roberta Marini of Italy to advance to an 8:30 p.m. match Thursday against third-seeded Chrisi Gschweidl and Barbara Hansel of Austria.

The Beach Volleyball win was "special" since it was the first-ever victory for the pair of 25-year olds, who were playing in their first-ever "open" SWATCH-FIVB World Tour event. There previous three international starts were at FIVB challenger and satellite events this season.

"This is like a dream come true," said Rodriquez after the event. "Our experience from the challenger and satellite events has really prepared us for tonight's match. We weren't discouraged by losing our previous six matches since we knew we just needed to play a lot more against other teams to gain experience."

The victory also guaranteed Muharer and Rodriquez a 33rd-place finish in the 12th SWATCH-FIVB World Tour event of the 2004 season for Israel's best-ever finish in an "open" event. The previous best was a 37th by Shaney Fink and Keren Oigman in 1998 in Vasto, Italy.

"First things first," said Muharer. "First, we had nothing to lose tonight since no one expected us to win. Now that we have accomplished a win on sand, we must fight hard tomorrow night for a spot in the Main Draw. We don't know much about our next opponent, except that they probably have a lot more experience than us."

Although Gschweidl and Hansel are playing in their second SWATCH-FIVB event together after placing seventh in a FIVB satellite event last week in France, the Austrians have played in a combined total of 46 international events while Muharer and Rodriquez have combined for nine total FIVB tournaments.

In addition to Muharer and Rodriquez' advancement, teams from Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Italy, Japan, Switzerland and the Ukraine also won elimination matches Wednesday. Thursday's final qualifying round will determine the last eight entries into the 32-team Main Draw.

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.