Moscow, Russia, July 17, 2009 - Barbara Hansel and Sara Montagnolli moved one match closer to becoming only the second Austrian women’s team to reach a SWATCH FIVB World Tour “final four” after coming back from a first set defeat to eliminate world champions Jen Kessy and April Ross of the United States from the US$600,000 Grand Slam Moscow 2009 presented by SEAT here Friday morning.
Facing the second-seeded Kessy and Ross for the second time this year after losing a two-setter (21-15 and 21-10) to the Americans in the SWATCH FIVB World Tour season opener in Brazil this past April, Hansel and Montagnolli posted a 11-21, 21-19 and 15-13 win in 54 minutes to advance to the quarter-finals Friday afternoon against fifth-seeded Renata Ribeiro and Vanilda Leao of Brazil.
While Montagnolli will be competing in her third SWATCH FIVB World Tour quarter-final match, Hansel is guaranteed her highest finish ever with her previous best placements in an “open” or Grand Slam event being three ninths. All three of Hansel’s ninths have been with Montagnolli, including two this season and one in 2001.
“We played awful in the first set,” said the 30-year old Montagnolli, who is one of the shortest women’s players (170 cm, 5’7”) on the SWATCH FIVB World Tour. “Obviously we played a lot better in the last two sets and did not give up when we fell behind 5-0 and 7-2 in the third set. Barbara had some big blocks for points and I even got one to give us a lead towards the end of the match. This is a terrific win for us, especially in a Grand Slam against the world champions.”
At last week’s Swiss Grand Slam in Gstaad, Hansel and Montagnolli failed to advance from the qualifier after placing 33rd two weeks earlier in Norway at the 2009 SWATCH FIVB World Championships where the Austrians were eliminated during pool play. Prior to the world finals, Hansel and Montagnolli also failed to qualify for the Main Draw in Seoul, Korea.
While Hansel and Montagnolli were posting their “biggest” win ever together, the 11th-seeded Austrian Schwaiger sisters (Doris and Stephanie) were also defeating a “final four” team from the 2009 SWATCH FIVB World Championships by posting a 22-24, 21-19 and 15-11 win in 71 minutes over fourth-seeded Shelda Bede and Ana Paula Connelly of Brazil.
It was the second-straight week that the Schwaigers have defeated Shelda and Ana Paula, who defeated the Austrian sisters here last year in the Moscow Grand Slam during pool play. Fifth-place finishers at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and the 2009 world championships, the Schwaigers are the only Austrian women’s team to compete in a SWATCH FIVB World Tour semi-final with a third- and fourth-place finishes at the end of last season in Norway and Dubai, respectively.
With the win, the Schwaigers play seventh-seeded Sara Goller and Laura Ludwig of Germany, the co-leaders on the European tour this season. The Schwaigers have split a pair of FIVB matches with Goller and Ludwig, including an elimination victory at the Beijing Summer Games. On the European circuit, Goller and Ludwig have won both matches over the sisters, including a semi-final victory last month in Baden, Austria.
In the bottom-half of the women’s bracket at the Grand Slam Moscow 2009, the Brazilian pairs of top-seeded Talita Antunes/Maria Antonelli and third-seeded Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca will be playing teams from Germany and the United States in the quarter-finals, respectively.
Talita and Antonelli, who trailed 17-13 in the first set to Nila Ann Hakedal and Ingrid Torlen of Norway before winning 22-20 and 21-18 in 45 minutes, face eighth-seeded Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler of Germany. Tied with Goller and Ludwig for the European circuit leadership, Holtwick and Semmler scored a 21-17 and 21-16 opening win Friday in 42 minutes over 20th-seeded Vivian Cunha and Angela Vieira of Brazil.
Juliana and Larissa, who have won two SWATCH gold medals this season as compared to three titles for Talita and Antonelli this year, rallied from a 14-11 deficit in the third set to 16th-seeded Ying Huang and Xi Zhang to defeat the Chinese pair 21-13, 19-21 and 21-19 in 67 minutes. The three-time SWATCH FIVB World Tour champions (2005-2007), Juliana and Larissa will be challenged by sixth-seeded Angie Akers and Tyra Turner of the United States, who posted a 21-16 and 21-11 win Friday morning over 24th-seeded Hana Klapalova and Tereza Petrova of the Czech Republic in 32 minutes.
The second of four SWATCH FIVB World Tour Grand Slams in 2009, the Grand Slam Moscow 2009 semi-final and medal matches for women will be played Saturday with the winning team sharing the $43,500 first-place prize. The men’s “final four” matches will be played Sunday as the international Beach Volleyball circuit continues next week in France at Marseille.
The 2009 SWATCH FIVB World Tour features $7.39-million in prize money and concludes this fall or spring with the men’s final event in China and the women’s last stop in Thailand. Following the last two Grand Slam stops in France and Austria (Klagenfurt), the international circuit remains in Europe with consecutive stops in Poland, Norway, Finland, The Netherlands, Italy and Spain.