Halifax, Nova Scotia, August 31, 2011 – Enjoying the sunshine of late summer and beauty of impressive Halifax Harbor, women’s teams from Austria, Germany, Kazakhstan and Russia all advanced from Wednesday’s qualification tournament to complete the 24-team main draw field for the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch Junior World Championships for players under the age of 21.
This year’s 11th annual double-gender event started Wednesday in Halifax, a regional municipality of over 300,000 residents located in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia on the east coast of Canada.
The world championship event is being held through Sunday at the purpose-built beach volleyball complex on the Salter Lot of the Halifax Waterfront. This is the first time in the event’s 11-year history that it is being held in North America.
Advancing to the women’s main draw are Austria’s Teresa Andessner/Christina Wallinger, Germany’s Christine Aulenbrock/Isabell Schneider, Kazakhstan’s Marina Pilipenko/Bakhtygul Samalikova and Russia’s Yulia Abalakina/Ksenia Dyachuk. Austria’s Andessner/Wallinger and Kazakhstan’s Pilipenko/Bakhtygul had two win two qualifying matches Wednesday while the German and Russia duos received first-round byes.
Gathered in Halifax for this year’s event are 59 teams (28 men and 31 women) from 24 countries. After Wednesday’s qualification tournaments determined the final four of 24-main draw spots for each gender, teams have been divided into six four-team pools for round-robin play on Thursday and Friday with the top two teams in each pool along with the best four third place teams advancing to the single-elimination bracket phase that will begin on Friday afternoon.
The medal matches for each gender will be held on Sunday. The event features live video streaming from the SEA center court at www.sandjamhalifax.ca. The gold medal team in each gender will also be rewarded by the FIVB and the respective organizers with wild cards and free transportation to take part in the main draw of a FIVB Swatch World Tour event in 2011 or 2012.
In the quickest match of the day, Russia’s Abalakina/Ksenia won the advancement match over Mexico’s Samara Aleman/Frida Lopez, 21-7, 21-9 in 27 minutes while Germany’s Aulenbrock/Schneider came from behind to win their lone match that pushed them into the main draw over Poland’s Martyna Kozinska/Sylwia Pilarek in three sets, 17-21, 21-6 and 15-12 in 46 minutes.
After defeating a team Spain in three sets in their first match, Austria’s Andessner/Wallinger earned a spot in the main draw by coming from behind to overcome USA’s top-seeded Sara Hughes/Caitlin Racich, 22-24, 21-16 and 15-6 in 47 minutes, the longest women’s match of the day. Kazakhstan’s Pilipenko/Bakhtygul won their first match of the day over a team from Norway in two sets and then moved forward with a two-set win over Netherland’s Esther Hullegie/Jolien Sinnema, 21-17, 21-17 in 32 minutes.
Following her team’s advancement win, Germany’s happy Aulenbrock commented, “We were so nervous we just didn’t know if we were going to pull it off. The qualifying with single-elimination is so hard, almost harder emotionally than playing the matches themselves. We were so nervous the first set we just weren’t concentrating enough. In the second we stepped up and made point ourselves and had good serves. In the tiebreaker set we were more confident that we could win and got an early lead then got nervous again about losing and we lost some points, but in the end it was good that we had so many points at the beginning.”
Just as happy as Aulenbrock and the other winners was Kazakhstan’s Marina Pilipenko said following her team’s second victory of the day, “Our matches were excellent today, we really played hard and everything really went great. This is our second year in this event and it is great to be in the main draw. We travel so far and the competition is so good, it’s really a big challenge to just make it to the main draw. But we did and it’s awesome.”
A total of 2,000 tons of special sand have been transported to the SEA complex to build the four competition and two practice courts for the venue, which includes the 2,000-seat featured SEA center court. Ticket information is available through the event website at www.sandjamhalifax.ca or by calling 902.444.3773. Children, five and under, are free for the entire event. Tickets are also on sale at the gate.
Countries represented in Halifax at the 11th anniversary of this event are Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Mexico, Namibia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Slovak Republic, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United States and Venezuela.
A total of 24 women’s players (seven teams along with 10 other players) from last year’s event are in Canada this year along with 10 other players who were part of last year’s field, including USA’s Tara Roenicke who won the women’s gold medal with then-teammate Summer Ross. Roenicke is teamed with Rebecca Strehlow this year.
As the host nation, Canada has three teams in each gender pre-seeded into the main draw. The three women’s teams representing Canada are Victoria Altomare/Melissa Humana-Paredes, Sarah Gosselin/Sara Robichaud and Alexandra Hudson/Charlotte Sider.
In addition to USA’s Roenicke, among the top women’s players are Germany’s Christine Aulenbrock and Victoria Bieneck who won the women’s gold medal at the 2009 FIVB Swatch Youth World Championships in Alanya and are competing this year with different teammates. Bieneck is pre-seeded into the main draw with Cinja Tillmann while Bieneck will start in the qualification tournament with Isabell Schneider as her teammate this year. One of the seven teams playing together from last year’s event in Alanya is Russia’s Ekaterina Karapischenko/Maria Ushkova who won the silver medal in last year’s FIVB Swatch Youth World Championships in Porto and Ushkova also won the bronze with a different teammate at the youth world championships in 2009.
Overall, Brazil leads in final four finishes at the FIVB Swatch Junior World Championships with 18 total (8 men’s and 10 women’s) and in gold medals with three men’s and six women’s. Second in men’s finishes is Spain with four, including two gold medals) and second in women’s final four finishes is the Netherlands with six (including one gold medal).
A founding province of Canada, Nova Scotia is nearly surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, and is known for its high tides, lobster, fish, blueberries and apples. Halifax was the site of the first British town in Canada, founded in 1749. Since then, the area has evolved to be home for charming fishing villages, farming communities and Atlantic Canada's largest city. Halifax, the gateway to Atlantic Canada, has flourished as a prominent port city. Halifax was founded in 1749 by Governor Edward Cornwallis and 2,500 settlers to act as a naval and army base to protect the area, creating Canada’s first permanent British town on the world’s second-largest natural harbor. The peninsula, which Halifax is located on, is 4.5 miles wide and two miles long.
Produced by Canada’s Sports and Entertainment Atlantic (SEA) in association with and under the sanction of the Lausanne, Switzerland-based Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB), more event information is available at www.fivb.org or www.sandjamhalifax.ca. The event also has a special Nova Scotia web cam link showing the entire venue at www.novascotiawebcams.com/halifax/sands-at-salter.html.