London, Great Britain, August 13, 2011 – Battling like warriors of mediaval times through electric quarterfinal matches Saturday four teams rose from the centre court sand to advance to Sunday’s semifinals and medal matches at the 2011 Visa FIVB Beach Volleyball International, a women’s Olympic test event being held at the iconic Horse Guards Parade in the historic heart of central London.
Winning the super-charged quarterfinal matches Saturday were Brazil’s world No. 26 Vivian Cunha/Taiana Lima, Great Britian’s Lucy Boulton/Denise Johns, USA’s world No. 4 Jennifer Kessy/April Ross and Brazil’s Liliane Maestrini/Angela Vieira.
Sunday’s final day at the Visa FIVB Beach Volleyball International will start at 10:00 (local time) with the semifinals in the first session and the second session starting at 14:00 that will feature the bronze medal match followed by the gold medal match with the awarding ceremony at the conclusion of the tournament finale.
Part of the London Prepares series of test events for several Olympic sports, this event is being presented by the London 2012 Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) in collaboration with the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, and the British Volleyball Federation, the Visa FIVB Beach Volleyball International Olympic test event carries with it a special $10,000 total purse.
The venue for this event features a 1,500-seat centre court, but for the London 2012 Olympics next August, a massive 15,000-seat stadium will be built. The event is part of the London Prepares series that features test events for several Olympic sports.
The final four championship day on Sunday will begin with the semifinals where the matchups will be the all-Brazilian match of Maestrini/Vieira vs. Cunha/Lima followed by USA’s Kessy/Ross vs. Great Britain’s Boulton/Johns. The losers of the semifinal matches will then meet later in the day for the bronze medal followed by the winners battling for the gold medal with the awarding ceremony concluding the colorful pre-Olympic test event.
In Saturday’s quarterfinal matches, Brazil’s Cunha/Lima went three sets before finally overcoming Australia’s Natalie Cook/Tamsin Hinchley, 21-17, 13-21 and 17-15 in 49 minutes, Great Britain’s Boulton/ Johns pulled of a major upset by defeating China’s world No. 1 Chen Xue/Xi Zhang in two sets, 21-19, 21-19 in 39 minutes, USA’s Kessy/Ross beat Mexico’s Bibiana Candelas/Mayra Garcia, 21-18, 21-12 in 34 minutes and Brazil’s Maestrini/Vieira held on to eliminate Great Britain’s Zara Dampney/Shauna Mullin, 21-14, 22-20 in 39 minutes.
Previewing Sunday’s semifinal matches, in the all-Brazilian match, Cunha/Lima are 5-0 and Maestrini/Vieira are 4-1 here in London and while they have met many times on the FIVB Swatch World Tour they are 2-2 all-time. USA’s Kessy/Ross are 5-0 in this tournament and have not lost a set, and the Americans lead the all-time FIVB series against Great Britain’s Boulton/Johns, who are 4-1 here in London, 3-0 although they have not faced each other this season.
In the opening quarterfinal which was the first time the two FIVB Swatch World Tour regulars had played, Brazil’s Cunha/Lima came out strong to win the first set with Australia’s Cook/Hinchley coming back equally as strong to win the second set to set up the tiebreaker.
In the tiebreaker third set, Brazil’s Cunha/Lima jumped out of the gate fast, taking a 6-1 lead before Australia’s Cook/Hinchley launched a serious comeback rally finally catching the Brazilian’s at 14-14 and then 15-15 before Brazil benefitted from two Australian hitting errors on the next two plays to win the match and advance to Sunday’s final four. For Brazil in the match, Cunha had four ace serves while Lima contributed one ace and 13 digs. For Australia, Hinchley recorded two aces, three blocks and three digs while Cook had 11 digs.
Brazil’s Cunha said in the Horse Guards Parade mixed zone, “Australia is a very good team. Natalie Cook won a gold medal at the Olympic Games. Every time we play against her it is a challenge but at the end of the day we expect Brazil will be on top. After the second set we had to refocus and we knew we had to make fewer mistakes. We did that and I think that’s why we won.”
Cook reflected philosophically afterwards, “We’ve familiarized ourselves with a fantastic venue and it’s inspired us to qualify for next year. It’s only four weeks since we got back together as a team and we’ve been learning every day. The Brazilians have been playing together for a while and this game, at the highest level, is all about communication on the court and I think we’re on the right track.”
In the second quarterfinal, Great Britain’s Boulton/Johns pulled off the biggest upset of the tournament in stopping world No. 1 China’s Xue/Zhang, the bronze medalists at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. This was the first win for Great Britain’s Boulton/Johns over China’s powerful Xue/Zhang, having previously lost twice to them in two sets on the FIVB Swatch World Tour.
In the match, Boulton and Johns each had two aces for Great Britain while Boulton also three blocks and a pair of digs and Johns had four digs. For China, Xue had two aces, one block and one dig while Zhang had one ace and seven digs.
After running a victory lap around centre court, Boulton joyously said, “It just keeps getting better. The crowd was amazing and it was great to showcase our sport in front of so many people from Great Britain. At the end of the first set, we stayed with them and then traded, traded, traded. They could have taken it but we took them. They are a great team and I am sure they will return to London next year for the Olympics.”
Revenge is a strong motivator and USA’s Kessy/Ross had lost the last two times they played Mexico’s Candelas/Garcia on the FIVB Swatch World Tour and tied their all-time series at 2-2 with the victory. Statistically, for USA, Kessy had four aces and five digs in the match while Ross record three aces, four blocks and three digs. For Mexico, Candelas had one ace, five blocks and three digs while Garcia, a two-time Olympian, had one ace and four digs.
“I’m not sure really if we are in our best form of the year, but it would be nice to think that we never get to a place where we know what our strength is so we always want to keep getting higher and higher,” said Ross following her quarterfinal win. “We took the opportunity to change a few things today because we’ve had some problems against them in the past. We used to always serve Mayra, but today we served to Bibiana instead and it seemed to work for us in this match.”
In the last of the quarterfinals, after pulling away from 12-12 the first set to outscore their opponents 9-2, Brazil’s Maestrini/Vieira had to fight off repeated challenges from Great Britain’s Dampney/Mullin to finally win in the first meeting between the two teams. In the second set, Brazil’s MaestriniVieira actually fought off two set point attempts by Great Britain’s Dampney/Mullin tying the set for the 15th-time at 20-20.
At that point, Vieira scored on an ace serve and then ended the match after her next serve with a powerful kill down the line, disappointing the home country fans as well as Great Britain’s Dampney/Mullin who had won three straight, three-set matches in this tournament. For Brazil, Vieira ended the match with three aces and eight digs while Maestrini contributed four blocks and three digs. For Great Britain, Dampney had four digs and Mullin had one ace, one block and two digs.
Following their match, Maestrini said, “It was a hard match, the British team is very good. We played well but they played well too. I want to thank the crowds, I’m really in love with London, thank you. Tomorrow it will be another hard match against a Brazilian team, we’re trying to play our best and want to go to the final. We’re here to win the gold medal.”
Arriving in time for the final quarterfinal of the day was special guest Lord Mayor of Westminster – Councillor Susie Burbridge. Burbridge commented, "I just can't believe it. Here we are in Horse Guards Parade, next to Downing Street, down the Mall from Buckingham Palace watching beach volleyball and Great Britain in the semifinals. Spectacular. It is so exciting."
A total of 13 of the 16 teams who made the elimination rounds in this week’s London event are regulars on the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour calendar that features 15 women's and 14 men's events, including 12 double-gender tournaments, within all five FIVB confederations plus this one special 24-team single-gender women’s test event being held through Sunday at London’s Horse Guards Parade, the venue for beach volleyball at the 2012 London Olympic Games. The 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour is offering $7.64m in prize money. Twelve of the tournaments are combined men's and women's events, including the World Championships and all six Grand Slam stops.
Following this week’s event in London, Europe hosts the final two double-gender open events of 2011 in Aland, Finland from August 15-21 and The Hague, Netherlands from August 23-28. The FIVB will then present the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch Junior World Championships for players under 21 years old, August 31-September 4 in Halifax, Canada.
Press Contact - FIVB Press Director Richard Baker,
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