Larnaka, Cyprus, July 12, 2012—Competing Thursday under cloudless skies, searing sunshine, intense humidity and the horizon-less gentleness of the Mediterranean Sea, the world’s best young women’s tandems endured the survival test of two rounds of pool play that yielded an exciting remaining field of 24 teams from 21 countries for the Friday’s three rounds of elimination bracket play at the 2012 FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH Youth World Championships, the 11th annual event for players under 19, which is being held through Saturday in a special purpose-built complex featuring the stadium center court at Finikoudes Beach.
After playing the last two of three pool play matches Thursday, the field of 32 women’s teams in the double-gender event was reduced to 24 for Friday’s action which will include the first round, round of 16 in the morning and afternoon and the quarterfinals in the evening session. The semifinals will be held Saturday morning and the medal matches are scheduled for Saturday evening under the Cyprus stars in each gender on the Larnaka center court with the women’s gold medal match at 7 p.m. followed at 8 p.m. by the men’s gold medal match. Admission is free to the event.
With 32 teams divided into eight four-team pools after playing the final two of three pool play matches Thursday in the double-gender event, a total of 63 teams (32 men and 31 women) from 34 countries have been in Cyprus this week at the 2012 FIVB SWATCH Youth World Championships. The top three teams in each of the eight pools advanced to the single-elimination ‘knockout rounds’ on Friday and Saturday.
Host country Cyprus advanced three teams and Canada advanced two teams each to the women’s single elimination bracket play while the countries with single tandems advancing were: Australia, Austria, Brazil, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Guinea, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Poland, Russia, Switzerland, Thailand and the United States.
Undefeated with 3-0 records to win their respective pools in the round-round pool play were: Austria’s fourth-seeded Nadine Strauss/Teresa Strauss, Brazil’s 10th-seeded Drussyla Felix/Eduarda Santos, Netherlands’ 11th-seeded Marloes Hesselink/Joy Stubbe, Poland’s second-seeded Karolina Baran/Katarzyna Kociolek, Russia’s 12th-seeded Ksenia Dabizha/Anna Gorbunova, Switzerland’s third-seeded Nina Betschart/Nicole Eiholzer and USA’s eighth-seeded Sara Hughes/Justine Wong-Orantes. Because of a no-show, Canada’s 17th-seeded Tiadora Miric/Alexandra Wooley were 2-0 in winning their pool.
Host country Cyprus’ had three teams advance to the single-elimination phase. Moving forward are top-seeded Antonia Theoti/Zoi Konstantopoulou (0-2) from the three-team pool, sixth-seeded Mary Nehmeh/Anthi Parla (1-2) and 30th-seeded Ioanna Leonidou/Erika Zempyla (1-2).
In order to advance, Cyprus’ Leonidou/Zempyla had to come from behind to upset Croatia’s 19th-seededMartina Kovacevic/Ivana Ovcina, 17-21, 21-18, 15-6 in 48 minutes before another packed Larnaka center court stadium.
After the victory, Cyprus’ joyous Zempyla, who had numerous blocks to help her team, said, “I feel great, I am very happy with the win. We played brilliantly, we had passion and enthusiasm. We had nothing to lose from the match but we recovered and got what we wanted to achieve in this world championship. Our goal was to make it into the single-elimination rounds.”
Each of those undefeated teams received the top eight placement positions on the bracket for the single-elimination portion of the championships that starts Friday morning at 9 a.m. at the Finikoudes Beach complex. Those eight teams will have a bye in the first round of elimination play to automatically move to the round of 16.
Six of the eight unbeaten teams in pool play also were perfect within their matches with unblemished set records as well. Ending at 6-0 in sets were—Brazil’s Felix/Santos, Netherland’s Hesselink/Stubbe, Poland’s Baran/Kociolek, Switzerland’s Betschart/Eiholzer and USA’s Hughes/Wong-Orantes. With one less match, Canada’s Miric/Wooley had a 4-0 set record.
Countries represented in Larnaka for the 11th anniversary of this event have been Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Namibia, Netherlands, Niger, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Peru, Russia, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, and the United States.
In the combined history of this event, Germany and Poland are tied for the lead among all countries with 15 total final four finishes each (Germany has six for men and nine for women while Poland has nine for men and six for women). In the race for medals in the event, Germany leads with 13 total (four four men and nine for women) while second is Poland with 10 total (seven for men and three for women).
At last year’s FIVB SWATCH Youth World Championships in Umag, Croatia, a pair of Polish teams, Lukasz Kaczmarek/Macjej Kosiak and Karolina Baran/Katarzyna Kociolek won their respective gold medals to help Poland increase their overall event-leading country medal count. Poland joined Germany (2003 in Pattaya, Thailand) as the only countries to capture the gold medal in both genders in the same year in the event’s first decade.
Poland’s 2011 women’s champions, Baran/Kociolek, are back to defend their title and Poland’s Lukasz Kaczmarek returns but his teammate this year is Sebastian Kaczmarek (no relation). They have advanced to the single-elimination phase of the tournament by winning their respective pools with 3-0 records.
Cyta TV of Larnaka will broadcast the medal matches for both genders live on Saturday evening. An international IMG television crew is also on-site to produce special segments from both genders to air on the FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH World Tour highlight shows to air worldwide later this summer.
The 2012 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 2012 or during the 2013 season.
After staging three FIVB Challenger events (2006, 2007, 2008) Cyprus has again returned to the world stage as Larnaka, a popular tourist destination, is hosting the 2012 FIVB SWATCH Youth World Championships for players under the age of 19. This year’s 11th annual double-gender event started Wednesday and will conclude Saturday.
Larnaka is a city of 72,000 located on the Southern Coast of Cyprus and third largest city in the island country in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. More information is available on the event including live scoring from center court matches is available at www.fivb.org.
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