Larnaka, Cyprus, July 13, 2012—Basking in the international showcase of a major championship event in sun-drenched Larnaka, four teams from Germany, Lithuania, Poland and Russia emerged Friday from three rounds of single-elimination play to advance to Saturday’s semifinals and medal matches 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.
Saturday’s final day of this year’s championships will begin with the semifinals starting at 11 a.m. and the medal matches are scheduled for Saturday evening under the Cyprus stars on the shores of the majestic Mediterranean Sea 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.
Competing Friday once again under cloudless skies, searing sunshine, intense humidity and the near-motionless gentleness of the Mediterranean Sea, 24 of the world’s best young women’s tandems endured the survival test of three rounds of single-elimination play that yielded this year’s final four for Saturday’s finale.
Meeting in the women’s semifinals Saturday will be Russia’s 12th-seeded Ksenia Dabizha/Anna Gorbunova facing Lithuania’s 18th-seeded Ieva Dumbauskaite/Monika Porilaityte and in the other semifinal it will be Germany’s seventh-seeded Sandra Ittlinger/Yanina Weiland challenging Poland’s second-seeded defending FIVB SWATCH Youth World Champions Karolina Baran/Katarzyna Kociolek.
With 32 qualified teams starting play 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 eight pools advanced to the single-elimination ‘knockout rounds’ that began on Friday.
Russia’s Dabizha/Gorbunova and Poland’s Baran/Kociolek have a 5-0 record so far in Larnaka while both Lithuania’s Dumbauskaite/Porilaityte and Germany’s Ittlinger/Weiland are 5-1 heading into the semifinals after losing once in pool play and both teams having to win three elimination matches on Friday.
Saturday’s women’s quarterfinal matches were played under the lights on another in the string of stirring summer nights in front of another appreciative and welcoming packed Larnaka stadium center court.
In the first two quarterfinals, Russia’s Dabizha/Gorbunova overpowered Canada’s 17th-seeded Tiadora Miric/Alexandra Woolley, 21-14, 21-8 in just 29 minutes and in the second one, Lithuania’s 18th-seeded Ieva Dumbauskaite/Monika Porilaityte held off a gallant effort from Austria’s fourth-seeded twin-sisters Nadine Strauss/Teresa Strauss, 21-19, 21-15 in 32 minutes.
In the last two women’s quarters played back to back on the overflowing Larnaka’s stadium center court, Germany’s seventh-seeded Sandra Ittlinger/Yanina Weiland overwhelmed Switzerland’s third-seeded Nina Betschart/Nicole Eiholzer, 21-19, 21-15 in 32 minutes and Poland’s second-seeded Baran/Kociolek came from behind in a battle for the ages for two young teams to defeat Brazil’s 10th-seeded Drussyla Costa/Eduarda Lisboa in three sets, 18-21, 21-19 and 19-17 in 58 minutes, the longest women’s match of the tournament so far.
Playing in front of a standing room only cheering crowd on a neutral Larnaka center court, Brazil came out firing and dominated the first set with a 21-18 final score. Never really losing their pose, Poland’s defending champions Baran/Kociolek, both just 17 years old and Brazil’s exciting Costa, just 16 and Lisboa, even younger at 13 years old, battled serve for serve, dig for dig and spike for spike in the second set that was tied nine times before Poland won 21-19.
With the vocal crowd on their feet encouraging both teams, the tiebreaker went beyond the 15-point winner score and with the overtime it was tied 11 times before Kociolek ended it with a vicious bullet serve that landed just inside the back line to give the defending champions the set at 19-17 and a spot in Saturday’s semifinals.
“This match was way tougher than our gold medal match victory in last year’s championships in Umag (Croatia) that we also won,” said an emotional Kociolek after her team’s match with Brazil. “The surprised us in the first set and beat us soundly but we battled back and didn’t give up even after not closing it out in the tiebreaker twice when we had match point. What a great win over a super team that should even get better as they get older.”
Canada’s Miric/Woolley, Austria’s Strauss sisters, Switzerland’s Betschart/Eiholzer and Brazil’s Felix/Santos Lisboa all leave Larnaka with official fifth place finishes in the 2012 FIVB SWATCH Youth World Championships.
Host country Cyprus’ had three of their four teams advance to the single-elimination phase. Unfortunately all three lost in the first round top—seeded (host country) Antonia Theoti/Zoi Konstantopoulou (0-3 in the tournament), sixth-seeded Mary Nehmeh/Anthi Parla (1-3) and 30th-seeded Ioanna Leonidou/Erika Zempyla (1-3). All three Cyprus teams finished the tournament with very respectable 17th-place finishes.
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 throughout Cyprus. 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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