Gstaad, Switzerland, July 26, 2007 - It is something about “major” events that brings out the best in Sara Montagnolli and Sabine Swoboda as the Austrian pair claimed the top spot in another SWATCH-FIVB World Tour pool for the third-time in the last five “major” events on the international Beach Volleyball circuit.
Despite losing 21-12, 16-21 and 15-9 to fifth-seeded Tamsin Barnett and Natalie Cook of Australia here Thursday in the US$1-million 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships powered by 1to1 energy, the 20th-seeded Montagnolli and Swoboda captured their pool on the strength of their opening wins Tuesday and Wednesday over teams from Finland and the Philippines.
Since posting a fifth for their country’s best-ever women’s SWATCH-FIVB World Tour finish last August in the Austrian grand slam in Klagenfurt, Montagnolli and Swoboda have placed fifth, 17th and ninth in the last three “major” stops in Paris, Norway and Berlin this season to compile an “impressive” 9-6 record in group competition.
“We just play hard and hope for the best,” said the 28-year old Montagnolli. “We don’t have the size or tremendous athletic ability that most of the teams have. We get by on a strong service game and the ability to side out to score points. We try to take advantage of other team’s mistakes.”
Montagnolli and Swoboda won their pool due to a better set ratio (2.5) than 44th-seeded Diane Pascua/Heidi Ilustre of the Philippines (1.33) and Barnett/Cook (1.25). Pascua and Ilustre, who upset the Australians Tuesday before losing to Montagnolli and Swoboda Wednesday, secured the second spot in their pool by defeating 29th-seeded Erika Nystrom/Emilia Nystrom of Finland 25-23 and 21-15 Thursday.
Germany’s Helke Claasen and Antje Roder, the 30th-seeded team in the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships, also won their pool Thursday despite being upset by 43rd-seeded Daniela Gioria/Giulia Momoli of Italy 21-13, 14-21 and 17-15 Thursday. Claasen and Roder captured the pool with opening wins over a pair of German rivals Sara Goller/Laura Ludwig and Stephanie Pohl/Okka Rau during the first two rounds.
Norwegians Nila Ann Hakedal and Ingrid Torlen have ended their recent “slump” on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour by winning their pool with three-straight upset wins. Seeded 41st, Hakedal and Torlen started the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships by upsetting eighth-seeded Leila Barros and Ana Paula Connelly Tuesday before posting wins over higher-seeded teams from the Netherlands and Japan
Prior to a ninth-place in the last SWATCH grand slam stop in Berlin two weeks ago, the Norwegians had placed 25th, 17th, 25th and 25th in the previous four FIVB events in Norway, Paris, Portugal and Seoul. Hakedal and Torlen started the 2007 campaign with a silver medal finish in Shanghai followed by a fifth in Singapore.
Reigning Olympic and world champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh of the United States protected their No. 1 seed for the 32-team elimination bracket by finishing pool play with 3-0 record and a 1.800 point ratio as compared to Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larrisa Franca’s 1.518 point ratio to maintain the Brazilian’s second seed.
The Chinese teams of Jia Tian/Jie Wang and Chen Xue/Xi Zhang also advanced to the elimination rounds by winning their pools with 3-0 records. Tian and Wang’s had a two-point difference in scoring margin to earn the third-seed in the elimination bracket over their Chinese rivals. The two Chinese tandems are the top-ranked teams on the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour with Tian and Wang leading the way.
The 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships, which also features men’s competition, continues through the weekend. Following three rounds of elimination bracket play Friday, the women’s semi-finals and finals will be played Saturday where the winning team splits the $60,000 first-place prize. The men’s elimination rounds will be played Friday and Saturday followed by the “final four” matches Sunday.