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

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Austrian's "New" Partnership Nets Main Draw Alice Italian Open Berth
Milan, Italy, September 2, 2004 - After playing for almost two seasons with different partners, Christina Gschweidl and Barbara Hansel decided a "change" was needed to prepare for the future.

The "change" paid off here Thursday as the young Austrians earned a spot in the Main Draw of the US$180,000 Alice Italian Open after posting a 21-15, 16-21 and 15-6 win over 15th-seeded Einav Muharer and Gisela Rodriquez of Israel in a Qualification Tournament elimination match.

"We knew that we would be switching partners at the end of the season," said Gschweidl after the first of four evening matches under the lights Thursday on the centre court at the Arco della Pace (Arc of Peace) - Piazza Sempione. "We just decided to do it sooner than at the start of next season."

Gschweidl had been playing with Sabine Swoboda for 16-straight SWATCH-FIVB World Tour events since the start of the 2003 season while Hansel had played in 23-straight international Beach Volleyball stops with Sara Montagnolli since the end of the 2002 season.

After finishing seventh with Hansel last week in a FIVB satellite event in Le Lavandou, France, Gschweidl thought the team would play better this week. "Our problem in France was we were just adjusting to each other's style," the 24-year old Gschweidl noted.

"We played okay, but the satellite event was just perfect to get our game together. We are both young players that just need to play a lot against good competition," Gschweidl added. "Barb will be 21 in the middle of the month (September 18). Right now, our goal is to get a lot better and challenge for a spot in the next Olympics."

Muharer and Rodriquez were seeking to become the first men's or women's team from Israel to qualify for a Main Draw berth in an "open" SWATCH-FIVB World Tour event. "They played well, especially in the second set," Gschweidl offered. "They won the second set tonight with their service game. If they stay together and gain some experience, they could become a pretty good team."

Joining the third-seeded Austrians in earning Main Draw berths Thursday were top-seeded Marie-Andree Lessard/Sarah Maxwell of Canada, second-seeded Montagnolli/Swoboda, fourth-seeded Cecilie Josefsen/Kristine Wiig of Norway, sixth-seeded Inguna Minusa/Inga Pulina of Latvia, seventh-seeded Isabelle Forrer/Lea Schwer of Switzerland, ninth-seeded Karin Trüssel/Nadia Erni of Switzerland, and 12th-seeded Tychnovas (Katerina and Marketa) of the Czech Republic.

The 32-team Main Draw will start Friday morning 10 a.m. with 40 matches in the double-elimination event. Sixteen (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.