FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour

Cincinnati Open | 17 - 21 May 2016

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Press release

Spain's Elsa & Liliana improve Olympic profile


After winning a silver medal in Sochi, Spain's Elsa Baquerizo (left) and Liliana Fernandez enjoy playing the according instrument "gift" for netting the second spot on Sunday's podium at the FIVB World Tour event.

Lausanne, May 9, 2016 - After placing 17th, 25th, 25th and ninth in their first four events this season, Spaniards Elsa Baquerizo and Liliana Fernandez were floundering with only four wins in their first 15 matches.

However, that all changed in Russia this weekend at the Sochi Open as the pair won six of seven matches to improve their provisional ranking for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games where Elsa and Liliana moved into the No. 11 spot (4,430 points for their best 12 finishes), excluding Brazilians, and ahead of Americans Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweet (4,410).

NOT THE SAME

Elsa and Liliana, who were the first Spanish women’s team to qualify for the Beach Volleyball competition in the Olympics at the London 2012 Summer Games, were not the same team at the start of the 2015-2016 international campaign that they were the past two seasons when they finished ninth and 11th, respectively, on the FIVB World Tour.

“We really struggled to find our game during our trip to Brazil,” said Liliana as the Spaniards won only once in 10 matches in the late February through mid-March stops in Maceio, Rio and Vitoria on the South American continent.  “We started playing better two weeks ago in China at Fuzhou, but we still did not defeat any of the top teams.”

The Spaniards only victory in Brazil was a three-set (2-1, 23-21, 19-21, 15-11), 61-minute pool play win over Fendrick and Sweat to advance from the pool in Maceio with the Americans placing 25th.  Although Elsa and Liliana lost their next match in Maceio to Ana Gallay and Georgina Klug of Argentina, the Spanish elimination of the Americans prevented Fendrick and Sweat with an opportunity to improve their Olympic ranking point total.

FAILURE THEN SUCCESS

Entering this week with an 1-4 match mark this season against the top pairs on the FIVB World Tour, Elsa and Liliana improved their record three-straight wins over quality opposition, including two victories over German pairs (Chantal Laboureur/Julia Sude and Karla Borger/Britta Buthe) followed a semi-final victory over Marta Menegatti/Viktoria Orsi Toth of Italy.  The Italians are the 2015-2016 FIVB World Tour point leaders for women.

The string of Sochi successes for the Spaniards ended when Switzerland’s Joana Heidrich and Nadine Zumkehr posted a 2-1 (21-11, 19-21, 15-7) gold medal win in 45 minutes over Elsa and Liliana.  Slow starts in the first and third sets of the Sochi finale doomed Elsa and Liliana as they were seeking to become the first-ever women’s team from Spain to win a FIVB World Tour gold medal.

“It really helped us to take a month away from competition after finishing 25th in Brazil (Vitoria, March 17) and rebooting our season in China (Fuzhou, April 21),” said the 29-year old Liliana.  “We’ll take next week off again and resume playing in two weeks in the United States (Cincinnati) before traveling to Moscow for the grand slam.  After those early disappointments in Brazil, we feel a lot better both mentally and physically.”

BIEL/BIENNE OPPORTUNITY

Elsa and Liliana will also have an opportunity to improve their Olympic point total at the European continental championships June 1-5 in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland.  A team can count their best finish from their continent’s championships during the Olympic qualifying period.  One of Elsa and Liliana’s best 12 finishes is a ninth from the 2015 CEV finals in Klagenfurt, and the Spaniards would need a quarter-final placement or better to improve their Rio qualifying point total.

The other “Road to Rio” development from the Sochi Open for women was the competition for the 15th and final spot for Olympic berths via the FIVB World Tour.  With Brazilians already guaranteed two spots in Rio due to winning the world championships last July in The Hague and being the host country, 15 of the 24 spots for the Copacabana quadrennial will be filled by countries from the international circuit with a maximum of two per nation.

Argentina’s Gallay and Klug are currently No. 15 on the list with 3,990 points for their best 12 finishes with Russians Ekaterina Birlova/Evgeniya Ukolova No. 16 at 3,830 points.  While Gallay and Klug improved their point total by 60 points with a fifth-place finish in the Sochi Open, Birlova and Ukolova placed 17th and needed to reach the quarter-finals to increase their total.

FIVB WORLD TOUR OLYMPIC QUALIFICATION

To qualify for the Olympics, a team must compete together in at least 12 FIVB World Tour events and/or recognized Continental championships from January 2015 through June 13, 2016.  A team’s best 12 finishes will be used to determine a tandem’s ranking.

Five pairs for each gender’s Olympic competition will qualify via Continental Cup action where each FIVB confederation is guaranteed a berth in the Rio 2016 Summer Games.  The last qualifying event will be July 6-10 when Russia hosts the FIVB World Continental Cup Olympic Qualification Tournament in Sochi.  The top two tandems from each gender from the Continental Cup qualifier will earn the last two pairs in the 24-team Olympic competitions.

BRAZILIAN BERTHS SECURED

Brazil has already qualified two teams in each gender’s competition for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.  Two pairs from the South American country captured the gold medals at the 2015 FIVB World Championships last July in The Hague (Alison Cerutti/Bruno Oscar Schmidt and Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas) to secure Copacabana berths.  Being the host of the Rio Summer Games, Brazil was also guaranteed two teams in the 24-team men’s and women’s fields (Evandro Goncalves/Pedro Solberg and Talita Antunes/Larissa Franca).

With all that said, Brazilian pairs cannot qualify another team for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games through the FIVB World Tour.  Therefore, the ranking list excludes Brazilians in the ranking order as Talita/Larissa (6,940) and Agatha/Barbara (6,870) rank 1-2 on the women’s provisional list.  Alison/Bruno (7,050 points) and Evandro Pedro (6,130) are the top two teams on the men’s provisional points list for Rio.

UPCOMING SCHEDULE

The last four FIVB World Tour stops during the qualifying process for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games are double gender tournaments highlighted by US$800,000 FIVB World Tour Grand Slam stop in Moscow followed by the newly-named Hamburg Major.

May 10-15 - Antalya (Turkey) Open
May 17-22 - Cincinnati (United States) Open
May 24-29 - Moscow (Russia) Grand Slam
June 7-12 - Hamburg (Germany) Major


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