Women's competition, Marseille
From 13 July To 18 July 2004

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Italian Qualifying Success
MARSEILLE, FRANCE, July 13, 2004 - If one thing is for certain, 2000 Beach Volleyball Olympians Laura Bruschini and Annamaria Solazzi of Italy know how to win qualifying matches on the 2004 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour.

Fifth-place finishers in the Sydney Olympic Games where they provided eventual gold medal winners Natalie Cook and Kerri Pottharst their "toughest" match before the Bondi Beach finale, Bruschini and Solazzi won here Tuesday for their seventh Main Draw berth in nine qualifying tries this season by eliminating a team from Switzerland in the US$560,000 World Series 13 event.

The 21-7, 16-21 and 15-9 win in 40-minutes over 16th-seeded Isabelle Forrer and Annik Skrivan of Switzerland was their 15th victory in 17 qualifying matches this season. One of their qualifying losses this season was to Brazil's Juliana Felisberta and Larissa Franca, who won last week's event in Mallorca.

"It is no fun playing in the qualifiers," said the 37-year old Bruschini, who had a daughter since placing fifth in the Sydney Olympics. "The surface here is hard and the windy weather makes it tough to play. We still enjoy playing the game, but like everyone, we would like to avoid playing in the qualifiers."

Solazzi, who is 38, and Brushini rank as one of the all-time leaders on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour with this being their 71st tournament together, which ranks them second on the career list behind the 85 starts together for Adriana Behar and Shelda Bede of Brazil.

Winners of a 1999 international event together in Mallorca, Bruschini and Solazzi are 11th in career FIVB team winnings with $288,870. This season, the Italians best finishes are 13ths in the season opener in Brazil and at the end of last month in Berlin.

Bruschini and Solazzi's best seasons were at the end of the 1990s when they ranked among the top 10 women's team in the world prior to the 2000 Olympic Games. In Sydney, the Italians were eliminated 15-11 in 50 minutes by Cook and Pottharst, who defeated Adriana and Shelda for the gold medal. Brucshini and Solazzi had defeated teams from Greece and Germany before losing.

Also advancing from Tuesday's qualifier were teams from Austria (Christina Gschweidl/Sabine Swoboda), Finland (Emilie Nystrom/Erika Nystrom), France (Carole Cordinnier/Mathilde Giodano) andthe Netherlands (Sanne Keizer/Merel Mooren) with three more matches to be completed Tuesday afternoon.

While the women open Main Draw play Wednesday, the men's qualifier begins Thursday. The finals are set for Sunday when the winners of each gender will share the $41,500 first-place prizes.