Umag, Croatia, June 25, 2011—What started with 16 remaining women’s teams starting Saturday’s round of 16, quarterfinals and semifinals on the sparkling sand of Umag’s center court has finished with the medal matches at the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch Youth World Championships Sunday, featuring teams from Poland and Austria in the gold medal match and teams from China and France competing for the bronze medal.
The world’s best young women’s best teams have been competing since Wednesday on the sun-baked Umag sand at the 10th annual double-gender event for players under 19, which will conclude 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.
Surviving the single-elimination phase that began Saturday with the round of 16 and the quarterfinals in the afternoon, followed by the semifinals in the evening, the final four teams have reached the medal matches for both genders to be held Sunday evening under the lights on the ATP Stadion-Umag center court.
Admission to the event is free, but donations are being 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.
Meeting for Umag women’s gold will be Poland’s 15th-seeded Karolina Baran/Katarzyna Kociolek facing Austria’s eighth-seeded Lena Plesiutschnig/Katharina Schutzenhofer while the Crotian women’s bronze medal match will be between China’s third-seeded Lingling Lin/Changning Zhang and France’s 19th-seeded Pauline Martin/Lisa Menet-Haure.
In Saturday night’s semifinals under the setting Croatian sizzling summer sun with refreshing Adriatic Sea breezes cooling the evening air but not the competition on the Umag center court.
Determining the medal matches for Sunday evening’s finale, for the second time in this tournament, Poland’s Baran/Kociolek finessed their way past China’s third-seeded Lingling Lin/Changning Zhang, 21-17, 21-16 in 33 minutes and Austria’s Plesiutschnig/Schutzenhofer defeated. France’s 19th-seeded Pauline Martin/Lisa Menet-Haure, 21-18, 21-11, in 34 minutes.
Poland has its sixth women’s team ever in the final four of the FIVB Swatch Youth World Championships as well as their third in the gold medal match where they have a 1-1 record. Austria is making its first final four appearance in the 10-year history of this event.
China also has a team in the final four of this event for the first time while France has a women’s team in the final four for the first time and France has had one men’s team in the final four.
Poland’s Baran/Kociolek are now 5-1 in this tournament with all five of their wins lasting just two sets. Austria enters the finale with a 5-1 record as well, having lost their first pool play match on Thursday.
“It was fantastic,” Poland’s Kociolek said following the Poland-China match. “We beat them two days ago in pool play (22-20 and 24-22) and we thought we might lose today especially because they seemed to be playing so much better than our first match. But we did all we could and fortunately we won and I am so, so happy. Karolina played in Porto (Portugal) in last year’s youth world championships. This is my first world championships and I have reached the gold medal match.”
After their semifinal win against France, Austria’s excited Schutzenhofer said, “It is unbelievable! The second set was especially nearly perfect. It was our first game in the semifinals so we were a bit nervous. The first set wasn’t too god, but the second was wow, really wonderful. We will play good in tomorrow’s gold medal match and see how it goes but we want to win for Austria, our coaches and our team.”
In the bronze medal match, China’s Lin/Zhang have a 3-3 match record, including a loss to Baran/Kociolek in pool play. France’s Martin/Menet-Haure are 6-2, having first earned a spot in the main draw by winning two qualifying matches on Wednesday in Umag.
The losing teams in the quarterfinals all left Umag with lasting memories and fifth place finishes. Placing fifth were
Switzerland’s 12th-seeded Nina Betschart/Nicole Eiholzer, Germany’s fifth-seeded Anna Behlen/Anika Krebs, Italy’s fourth-seeded Greta Cavestro/Velentina Facco and Kazakhstan’s 17-seeded Lyubov Bogatu/Bakhtygul Samalikova.
Finishing with ninth place finishes in the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch Youth World Championships were the eight teams that lost matches to start the day Saturday in the Round of 16.
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. Croatia’s top-seeded (as host country) made Alisa Hasanbegovic/Tena Sunic went 2-1 in pool play and lost in the single-elimination Round of 16 to finish tied for ninth in the world championships.
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 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.