Brasília, Brazil, April 22, 2011—In a beach volleyball match the sporting world has been hoping to see again for more than two years, Brazil’s Juliana Felibersta Silva and Larissa Franca defeated defending two-time Olympic champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh of the United States in the women’s finale Friday of the internationally-televised women’s gold medal match in the $US380,000 Brasília Open, the season-opening event on the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour calendar.
After not playing each other since June 14, 2008, Juliana/Larissa, the current top-seeded international tandem, defeated May-Treanor/Walsh in a three-set, 49-minute gold medal match, 21-16, 15-21 and 15-12 to win their third consecutive title at the Brasília Open, being played for the third straight year in Brazil’s capital city. The Esplanada dos Ministérios center court was packed with several thousand fans who enthusiastically cheered their home-country team.
While Brazil’s top-seeded Juliana/Larissa have won five of the last six season championships on the international tour, their American rivals May-Treanor/Walsh, seeded seventh in this event, have reunited for the first time since they won the 2008 Beijing Olympics for their second Olympic gold medal.
Increasing their FIVB career gold medal record to 37 and 70 medals overall and 71st final four finish in 85 FIVB tournaments playing as a team, Juliana/Larissa shared the $30,000 first-place prize while May-Treanor/Walsh took home the $21,000 second-place prize and the their 10th career FIVB silver medal together and 53rd total medal and 55th final four finish out 60 FIVB events they have played.
The 15th meeting between the two most prominent women’s teams in beach volleyball and 12th time in a gold medal match was close early in all three sets with all four players making spectacular plays to keep things tight. After this finale, May-Treanor/Walsh still have an 11-4 edge in the series, 8-4 in gold medal matches.
The Brazilians visibly enjoyed the tremendous vocal support of their partisan fans while the veteran Americans continued to display the poise and polish as little runs by both teams broke open tied matches with both teams taking slight leads in each to produce the end result. In the opening set, the final tie was at 8-8 before Juliana/Larissa ran off four straight points but May-Treanor/Walsh closed to 11-10 before the Brazilians gradually pulled away at the end.
In the second set, it was last tied at 9-9 when the Americans went on a run, scoring six of the next eight points to take a 15-10 lead. In the deciding third, the teams exchanged points with the Brazilians keeping a one-point lead before the Americans tied it at 12-12 and then Juliana and Larissa took turns with massive kills for the final three points of the match.
“It was a tough, tough match and our fans helped keep us going when it got tough out on the sand and we are so happy to finally have this opportunity to play and beat such a great, great champion team like Misty and Kerri,” said Juliana following her championship match. “We have been preparing for them for over two years, hoping they would be able to return to playing on the FIVB Swatch World Tour. Larissa and I made some mistakes, but when you are playing against a team like them those things happen. We adjusted well and were able to win our third straight FIVB gold medal in Brasília. What a great way to start a very long season.”
Two-time Olympic champions May-Treanor/Walsh, who after an absence of over two years away from playing together on the FIVB Swatch World Tour saw their FIVB record match win streak stopped at 74 with the loss to Juliana/Larissa. America’s top team was encouraged and enthusiastic about their play in Brasília Open.
“We are very proud of our play in Brazil,” said Walsh afterwards. “We’re frustrated but Juliana and Larissa are the top team in the world right now and that’s where we want to be again in the future. We haven’t played together for over two years and we have to work more on our technique but we did well all things considered and we love playing in Brazil so it was great to be back here this week.”
In the all-American bronze medal match, eighth-seeded reigning FIVB Swatch World Champions Jennifer Kessy/April Ross defeated 22nd-seeded qualifier team Lauren Fendrick/Brooke Hanson, 25-23 and 21-19 in 49 minutes.
Kessy/Ross, who earned their 20th FIVB career podium placement and sixth bronze medal in a FIVB Swatch World Tour event while improving their career record against Hanson/Fendrick to 2-1, will split $15,000 and Hanson/Fendrick picked up $11,200 as the fourth place team.
Brazil has staged a FIVB Swatch World Tour event every year since the start of the international series for men in 1987 and women in 1992. This is the 33rd men’s event and 28th women’s tournament on the FIVB Swatch World Tour held in Brazil. This is also the 13th time Brazil has been the site of a season-opening event on the international circuit.
The men’s medal matches in the first of 12 double-gender events on the 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour will be held Friday morning.
After the Brasília stop, the 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour continues with a single-gender event (women) in Sanya, China next week starting Tuesday. Following Sanya will be a double-gender event in Shanghai, China (May 2-8). Myslowice, Poland (women) and Prague, Czech Republic (men) will then host single-gender events on May 17-22. After a two-week break, Beijing, China hosts the first grand slam event on the 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour on June 6-11 followed the 2011 FIVB Swatch World Championships in Rome (June 13-19).