Women's competition, Osaka
From 2 June To 6 June 2004

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Greeks Untracked
OSAKA, JAPAN, June 4, 2004 - After four straight-17th-place finishes on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour, Vasso Karadassiou and Efi Sfyri of Greece got "untracked" here Friday by winning a pair of matches to guarantee their best finish since last September.

With the world coming to Karadassiou and Syfri's home country in August for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, Friday's performance on the Tannowa Beach courts was "encouraging" for the veteran team that has "struggled" lately since placing ninth last September in Los Angeles.

"The key was being better prepared, better focused and more aggressive," said Sfyri, who is playing in her 62nd FIVB event with Karadassiou since the pair formed their partnership in 1997. "It was our dream to make the Olympics when we starting playing together. We fulfilled that dream in 2000 by qualifying for the Sydney to become the first-ever team from our country to compete in Olympic volleyball competition - indoor or beach."

"We like playing here," said Karadassiou, who placed fifth with Syfri the last two years at Tannowa Beach. "The key right now is to maintain our focus on our upcoming matches and events and not worry about Athens. We are excited about the world coming to Athens, but it is more important for us to play well the next two months."

Syfri hopes that being "on home sand in Athens will inspire" her team to a better Olympic finish than the 17th they posted in Sydney. "We were just glad to be there in 2000. We don't feel the pressure like the Aussies did in Sydney. Everyone expects the Americans and the Brazilians to medal in Athens."

After defeating teams from the Netherlands and Mexico, the 21st-seeded Karadassiou and Syfri play 29th-seeded Nila Ann Hakedal and Ingrid Torlen of Norway Saturday morning. The Greeks downed Hakedal and Torlen 21-12 and 21-19 in an elimination match last week in China for their second win in as many meetings against the Norwegians.

Hakedal and Torlen, who had to qualify for the Main Draw, used a forfeit win over fourth-seeded Jia Tian and Fei Wang of China and an 18-21, 21-19 and 15-13 over 20th-seeded Ethel-Julie Arjona of Virginie Kadjo of France to advance unbeaten to Saturday. The two wins Friday guarantee the Norwegians their best ever SWATCH-FIVB World Tour finish as the pair posted three ninths last season, including one at Tannowa Beach.

The double-elimination Main Draw continues through Sunday when the final two teams play for the $27,000 first-place prize. Following Osaka, the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour has a weekend off before the final three Olympic qualifying events in Switzerland, Germany and Norway. The beach volleyball competition at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games will be played August 14-25.