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Thirteen unbeaten women’s teams at FIVB Puerto Vallarta Open

USA's Summer Ross, left, blocks Mexico's Santoyo Salazar as Ross and Lane Carico won a pair of pool play matches Thursday at the FIVB Puerto Vallarta Open in Mexico, the season opener of the 2016 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour.
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, October 8, 2015 — Raising the stakes higher in a hurry Thursday, 13 women’s from nine countries won their first two of three round-robin pool play matches during the first day of the 32-team main draw at the double-gender $150,000 FIVB Puerto Vallarta Open, the season opening event on the 2016 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour.

The double-gender event, the first of three tournaments on the 2015 portion of the 2016 FIVB World Tour schedule, is being held through Sunday at the purpose-built event site on Playa Camarones. Back in Puerto Vallarta for the second straight year, the 2-0 teams Thursday were led by two teams each from Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the United States along with one each from Austria, Brazil, Canada, Switzerland and Vanuatu.

The FIVB Puerto Vallarta Open started Tuesday with a qualification tournament for men on Tuesday and the women on Wednesday that determined the final eight spots in the 32-team main draw followed by two days of round robin pool play for each gender. The top three teams in the eight pools (24 total teams) will advance from pool play to the single-elimination knockout rounds. Men’s pool play was held Wednesday and Thursday. Two elimination rounds will be held on Friday. On Saturday will be the men’s quarterfinals and semifinals with the men’s medal matches and awarding ceremony on Sunday on the Playa Camarones stadium court.

The women’s pool play matches are being played on Thursday and Friday with the first two rounds of eliminations on Friday as well. The women’s quarterfinals and semifinals will be held on Saturday and the event will conclude with the women’s medal matches and awarding ceremony on Sunday.

Following Thursday’s first two round robin matches in the event’s pool play portion, six teams with 2-0 record in the main draw are among the top 10-seeded teams along with another seven spread out amongst the 32-team field. The undefeated women’s teams Thursday were Germany’s top-seeded Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst, Switzerland’s third-seeded Isabelle Forrer/Anouk Verge-Depre, Italy’s fourth-seeded Marta Menegatti/Viktoria Orsi Toth, Vanauatu’s sixth-seeded Miller Pata/Linline Matauatu, Germany’s seventh-seeded Julia Sude/Chantal Laboureur and Netherlands’ 10th-seeded Sophie van Gestel/Jantine van der Vlist.

Also among the unbeaten are Brazil’s 12th-seeded Eduarda Lisboa/Elize Maia, Canada’s 13th-seeded Melisa Humana-Parades, USA’s 14th-seeded Jennifer Fopma/Brittany Hochevar, USA’s 16th-seeded Summer Ross/Lane Carico, Austria’s 18th-seeded Barbara Hansel/Stefanie Schwiger, Netherlands’ 24th-seeded Rimke Braakman/Jolien Sinnema and Italy’s 25th-seeded qualification team of Agata Zuccarelli/Laura Giombini.

During the first two pool play rounds, the biggest seed breakthrough saw Germany’s second-seeded Katrin Holtwick/Ilka Semmler upset in three sets by Austria’s 18th-seeded veteran duo of Barbara Hansel/Stefanie Schwaiger, 20-21, 21-11 and 14-16 in 58 minutes.  The Austrians started their day with another three set win, this one defeating Brazil’s 15th-seeded Lialiane Maestrini/Carolina Horta Maximo, 22-20, 19-21 and 15-12 in 63 minutes.

In another major upset, USA’s 28th-seeded qualification team Heather McGuire/Amanda Dowdy defeated Argentina’s fifth-seeded Ana Gallay/Georgina Klug in three sets, 19-21, 21-16 and 15-13 in 64 minutes, the longest match of a very hot and humid day.

Fresh from a silver medal last week at the $2015 FIVB Swatch Beach Volleyball World Tour Finals in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., USA, Germany’s top-seeded Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst easily justified their No. 1 seed in the tournament with a pair of impressive, two set wins on Thursday, spending less than an hour total on the court.

First the talented German ladies opened the Playa Camarones stadium court by defeating Mexico’s 32nd-seeded Claudia Rios/Santoyo Salazar, 21-14, 21-14 in 32 minutes. The Germans then came back in their afternoon match and stopped Norway’s 17th-seeded Janne Kongshavn/Victoria Kjolberg, 21-10, 21-9 in just 29 minutes.

After their second quick win of the day Thursday, German Olympian Ludwing commented, "We always want to perform good and we go from match to match and we try to play our best all the time, but even if you don't play good on the pool play you always try to get better and improve through every point and keeping our head in the game. We did that today, even though we played so much better in the second match against Norway than we did against Mexico in our morning match."

Germany’s top-seeded Ludwig/Walkenhorst will finish pool play on Friday, meeting USA’s 16th-seeded Summer Ross/Lane Carico, also 2-0 in pool play, at 8:50 a.m. at the Playa Camarones stadium court.

The gold medal team in each gender at the FIVB Puerto Vallarta Open will split $11,000, the silver $8,000, the bronze $6,000 and fourth place $4,500.

The FIVB Puerto Vallarta Open is the 330th men’s event since the FIVB began men’s competition in 1987 and the 294th FIVB women’s tournament since they started in 1992.

As the host nation, Mexico has three women’s teams pre-seeded into the main draw and three teams in the women’s qualification tournament. Mexico’s main draw teams are provisional 22nd-seeded Bibiana Candelas/Ana Rios, 23rd-seeded Stephanie Burnside/Zaira Orellana and 24th-seeded Claudia Rios/Gloria Santoyo. Women’s teams in the qualifier from Mexico were Elsa Almaguer/Karen Valencia and Rubi Sandoval/Haydee Lopez. Both of the host country teams lost their qualifying matches on Wednesday and were eliminated from the tournament.

Puerto Vallarta is one of three cities to host an international FIVB beach volleyball event. Others have been Acapulco and Rosarito Beach.

Prior to last year’s Puerto Vallarta event, Acapulco had FIVB World Tour events in 1999, 2005 and 2006 and Rosarito Beach hosted a FIVB World Tour stop in 2000. In 2014, Acapulco returned to the FIVB international calendar, hosting the inaugural 17U FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships, one of four age-group world championships held every other year by the FIVB.

After the season-opening event in Puerto Vallarta, the 2016 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour, with placement points counting in the FIVB Olympic Rankings for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, continues with the two remaining 2016 FIVB World Tour events on the 2015 portion of the schedule. The first will be the double-gender $150,000 FIVB Antalya Open in Turkey (Oct. 20-25) and the final event in 2015 will be the men’s only $75,000 FIVB Doha Open in Qatar (Nov. 9-13).

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