Umag, Croatia, June 24, 2011—Competing Friday under mostly cloudy skies with slightly cooler temperatures from the intensely sunny previous days, the world’s best young women’s tandems endured the survival test that yielded an exciting field of 16 teams from 15 countries for Saturday’s elimination rounds at the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch Youth World Championships, the 10th annual event for players under 19. The event is being held through Sunday at the impressive ATP Stadion-Umag, a professional tennis complex nestled around a luscious lagoon on the gentle shores of the peaceful Adriatic Sea.
After playing the last of three pool play matches Friday, the remaining field of 24 women’s teams in the double-gender event was pared to 16 for Saturday’s round of 16, quarterfinals and semifinals in afternoon and evening sessions respectively. The medal matches are scheduled for Sunday evening in each gender.
Admission to the event is free for the entire week, but donations will be taken at the gate to help the Play of Japan campaign, to assist with the reconstruction efforts in Japan in the areas hit by the devastating earthquake. A total of 73 teams (38 men and 35 women) from 29 countries were in Umag when the 2011 FIVB Swatch Youth World Championships started on Wednesday.
The only country to advance two teams to the women’s single elimination bracket play was Poland while the countries with single tandems advancing are: Australia, Austria, China, host country Croatia, France, Germany, Italy, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Mexico, Russia, Spain, Switzerland and the United States.
Among the sweet 16 set for the final ‘knockout rounds’ on the road to the gold medal are two teams that advanced to the main draw pool play after surviving the two qualification tournament rounds on Wednesday that determined the final 24 teams for main draw pool play.
The top two teams in each pool along with the best four third place teams have advanced to the single-elimination ‘knockout rounds’ on Saturday and Sunday. The men played two matches each on Friday while the women played once.
Poland’s two teams to advance were 15th-seeded Karolina Baran/Katarzyna Kociolek (2-1 and second in Pool C) and 23rd-seeded Marzena Kedzior/Paulina Stasiak (1-2 and third in Pool B). Kedzior/Stasiak advanced to the main draw from Wednesday’s qualification tournament.
The other team that has advanced to the final elimination phase after starting in the qualification tournament was Lithuania’s 22nd-seeded Ieva Dumbauskaite/Monika Povilaityte, who are undefeated in the tournament with a 5-0 record after winning two matches in qualifying and winning three matches to pace Pool C.
Five of the six pools were won by teams that were undefeated in their three round-robin matches over the last two days. Besides Lithuania, advancing with 3-0 records so far were Australia’s seventh-seeded Mariafe Artacho del Solar/Nicole Laird (Pool F), Russia’s ninth-seeded Ksenia Dabizha/Olga Sorokina (Pool D), Spain’s 11th-seeded Maria Martinez/Paula Soria (Pool B) and Switzerland’s 12th-seeded Nina Betschart/Nicole Eiholzer (Pool) A).
In Pool E, Austria’s eighth-seeded Lena Plesiutschnig/Katharina Schutzenhofer had a 2-1 record and won the tie-breaker over two other 2-1 teams who both also made the elimination rounds—Germany’s fifth-seeded Anna Behlen/Anika Krebs and Kazakhstan’s 17-seeded Lyubov Bogatu/Bakhtygul Samalikova.
Host country Croatia advanced one team to the sweet 16 in women’s play as top-seeded Alisa Hasanbegovic/Tena Sunic finished second in Pool A with a 2-1 record.
Besides Croatia, Germany and Poland, the other second-place finishers advancing to Saturday’s action are USA’s second-seeded Sara Hughes/Justine Wong-Orantes (Pool A), Mexico’s 21st-seeded Samara Aleman/Frida Lopez (Pool D) and France’s 19th-seeded Pauline Martin/Lisa Menet-Haure.
In addition to Kazakhstan and Poland, the two other third-place teams advancing are China’s third-seeded Lingling Lin/Changning Zhang ((Pool C) and Italy’s fourth-seeded Greta Cavestro/Velentina Facco.
After winning their final match over USA’s Hughes/Wong-Orantes to win their pool Friday, Spain’s Paula Soria said, “We actually started the match a little bit nervous in the first set, but we settled down and didn't make very many mistakes and the Americans but many more. Maria and I supported each other well on the court the entire match. We are so excited to be playing together in the FIVB Swatch Youth World Championships here in Umag."
Her teammate, Maria Martinez also was excited to move on into the single-elimination phase of the world championships, stating, “The biggest difference in the match was that we studied them so much with the help of our coach and we knew almost everything they were going to do and that helped us alot. We just got more and more confident as the match went on and it's great to win our pool."
As the host nation, Croatia had three teams in each gender pre-seeded into the main draw and one of the women’s teams survived pool play to earn a spot in the sweet 16 single-elimination phase. Women’s teams representing Croatia have been Hasanbegovic/Sunic (2-1 in pool play), Ivana Ovcina/Zrinka Sutalo (1-2) and Josipa Pivac/Sara Radanovic (0-3).
Also as the host country, Hasanbegovic/Sunic are top-seeded in the event and they won twice on Thursday before losing their final pool play match on Friday, 13-21, 18-21 in 31 minutes to Switzerland’s Betschart/Eiholzer. Their final record placed them second in Pool A allowing them to stay alive in the tournament.
This year’s international event is being produced by the Croatian Volleyball Federation in association with MPG of Zagreb, Croatia. MPG has produced four FIVB Swatch World Tour men’s events in Zagreb and this is the first international beach volleyball event ever held in the colorful resort area of Umag.
A total of 1,900 tons of special sand have been transported to the ATP Stadion complex to build the four competition and two practice courts for the ventue. The sand was brought from Cazma, Croatia, which 370 kilometers east of Umag near Zagreb, Croatia’s capital.
Sport TV of Croatia is taping a special highlight show including action from the semifinals and medal matches for each gender. An IMG television crew is also on-site to produce special segments from both genders to air internationally on the FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch 33 World Tour highlight shows to air later this summer.
The 2011 FIVB Swatch Youth World Champions in each gender will be rewarded a “wild card” by the FIVB for a future FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour event during the final months of 2011 or during the 2012 season.
More information on the 2011 FIVB Swatch World Championships is available at both www.fivb.org and the Croatian Volleyball Federation at www.odbojkanapijesku.com.