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Women’s Qualifier Opens Gstaad Major

Serving Mikasa during Tuesday's qualifying round at the Gstaad Major is Brazil's Fernanda Alves, the silver medal winner with Taiana Lima at last week's FIVB "senior" Beach Volleyball World Championships in The Netherlands.
Gstaad, Switzerland, July 7, 2015 - A 30-team, 22-match qualification tournament opened play here Tuesday in the US$800,000 Gstaad Major where eight Beach Volleyball teams secured spots in the “money” rounds of the ninth women’s event on the 2015 FIVB World Tour calendar. Returning to the Swiss Alps village for the 16th-straight year, the Gstaad Major is the third of three SWATCH Major Series events that began with tournaments last month in Croatia (Porec) and Norway (Stavanger). The women’s 32-team Main Draw starts Wednesday leading to Saturday’s semi-final and medal matches where the winning team shares the $57,000 first-place prize. Headlining Tuesday’s qualifiers were top-seeded Fernanda Alves and Taiana Lima as the Brazilians defeated 17th-seeded Amanda Dowdy and Heather McGuire United States 2-0 (21-13, 21-11) in 32 minutes to join second-seeded compatriots Carolina and Maria Salgado in the Main Draw along with pairs from Austria, China, Finland, France, Germany, Japan and Vanuatu. Other qualifying teams Tuesday were third-seeded Linline Matauatu/Pata Miller of Vanuatu, fourth-seeded Taru Lahti/Riikka Lehtonen of Finland, seventh-seeded Barbara Hansel/Stefanie Schwaiger of Austria, eighth-seeded Sayaka Mizoe/Takemi Nishibori of Japan, 12th-seeded Victoria Bieneck/Julia Grossner of Germany and 22nd-seeded Yuanyuan Ma/Xinyi Xia of China. Fernanda and Lima have placed third and second in the last two FIVB World Tour events highlighted by an appearance in the gold medal match this past Saturday in the FIVB “senior” Beach Volleyball World Championships where they lost the All-Brazilian finale in The Hague to Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas. “In a positive way, it great to play in the qualifier to get some practice time on the courts,” said Fernanda, who celebrated her 30th birthday last week in The Hague. “But, it could be a costly practice if you lose in the qualifier and are eliminated. The other negative is that we have to arrive at the site a day earlier that the other Main Draw teams. If we have a Sunday finale in one place and have to arrive the next day for a country quota or qualifying match, you have more stress.” Host Switzerland will have three teams in the women’s Main Draw, including Isabelle Forrer/Anouk Verge-Depre, Tanja Goricanec/Tanja Huberli and Joana Heidrich/Nadine Zumkehr. All three pairs competed in the world championships with Forrer/Verge-Depre and Goricanec/Huberli advancing to the elimination rounds and placed 17th. Heidrich and Zumkehr have had the most success together of the current Swiss pairs in Gstaad with a ninth and fifth the past two years. Heidrich and Zumkehr upset Americans April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings last July on the Alps village center court before losing in the quarter-finals to Maria Antonelli and Juliana Felisberta in three-sets. Zumkehr has a bronze medal finish in Gstaad as she teamed with Simone Kuhn to defeat a team from Belgium in the 2012 third-place match. In an event prior the London 2012 Summer Games, Zumkehr and Kuhn defeated Agatha and Barbara in the quarter-finals before losing to eventual Olympic champions Missy May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings in the semi-finals. Germans Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler are the defending Gstaad champions after defeating compatriots Karla Borger and Britta Buthe 2-0 (24-22, 21-16) in 40 minutes. It was the first-ever All-German women’s final on the FIVB World Tour since the start of play in 1992. Both German pairs are in the 2015 Gstaad Major. Semmler was named the top blocker at last week’s world championships where she and Holtwick placed fourth by losing their final two matches to Fernanda/Lima and Antonelli/Juliana in the “final four”. Borger and Buthe won their pool at the world championships, but placed 17th in the event after being eliminated by Heather Bansley and Sarah Pavan of Canada. Following the Gstaad Major, the FIVB World Tour takes a week off before resuming in the inaugural Yokohama Grand Slam July 21-26. It will mark the first-time that both men and women have competed together in Japan in a FIVB World Tour event. Seven FIVB men’s only events were held in Japan from 1989-1995, including a 1991 on stop in Yokohama. A total of 14 women’s only events were held in Osaka from 1994-2005 and in 2008 and 2009.

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