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Germany, United States to meet for women’s gold at FIVB São Paulo Grand Slam

Brazil's Agatha Bednarczuk passes the Mikasa to Maria Antonelli on the way to win the bronze medal Saturday over Italy's Marta Menegatti/Viktoria Orsi Toth as the gold medal match will be played Sunday at the FIVB São Paulo Grand Slam.

São Paulo, Brazil, October 12, 2013 – Digging deep to each pull out come-from-behind three-set semifinal victories Saturday, Germany’s fifth-seeded Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst will now meet USA’s 10th-seeded April Ross/Kerri Walsh Jennings Sunday morning for the women’s gold medal on the final day at the $440,000 FIVB São Paulo Grand Slam double-gender tournament. The event has marked the return of the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour’s to Brazil for the 27th consecutive year.

With the 2013 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour resuming in South America this week after a six-week hiatus, Saturday’s schedule includes gold medal matches in each gender. The ninth 2013 FIVB Grand Slam event is being held for the first time in São Paulo on the purpose-built site located on the expansive grounds of Parque Villa Lobos on the west side of the massive city.

Germany’s fifth-seeded Ludwig/Walkenhorst and USA’s 10th-seeded April Ross/Kerri Walsh Jennings are both new teams on the FIVB World Tour and both enter Sunday’s gold medal match with 6-0 records in São Paulo. This is the first team the two teams will have met although with different teammates all have played each other numerous times.

Germany’s Ludwig/Walkenhorst are in their ninth tournament together and this is their third final four appearance with one silver medal and one fourth place finish. Ludwig is playing in her 99th career FIVB World Tour event and her 18th FIVB final four with no gold medals and eight silver. Walkenhorst is in her 17th career FIVB World Tour event, her third FIVB final four and she has one silver medal and one fourth place finish.  Together, Germany’s Ludwig/Walkenhorst won the silver medal together at the last FIVB World Tour stop in Moscow six weeks ago. Ludwig is a two-time German Olympian finishing ninth in 2008 (Beijing) and fifth in 2012 (London) with the now-retired Sara Goller.

Ross/Walsh Jennings is USA’s newest team. The Olympic duo is playing in just their second FIVB World Tour Grand Slam event after Olympic careers with different teammates. Walsh Jennings has three career Olympic gold medals and Ross won the silver medal last year at the 2012 London Olympics.  Ross/Walsh Jennings played together for the first time on the FIVB World Tour in Gstaad, Switerzerland on July 10-14 where they finished ninth. Walsh is returning to regular action after giving birth to her third child as she has taken six months off from competition.

Individually, USA’s Ross is playing in her 84th career FIVB World Tour event, her 37th FIVB final four with 10 gold and 12 silver medals. USA’s Walsh Jennings is playing in her 88th career FIVB World Tour event, her 70th FIVB final four with 44 gold medals and 15 silver.

For Ross, she is setting another record for her illustrious career. Sunday will mark the first time in FIVB World Tour history where both a husband and wife will be playing in their respective gold medal matches in the same event. Her husband Casey Jennings is pinch-hitting for the injured Sean Rosenthal. Jennings is playing for the USA with Phil Dalhausser and they will be meeting Brazil’s Bruno Schmidt/Pedro Salgado in the men’s gold medal match.

Brazil’s seventh-seeded Agatha Bednarczuk/Maria Antonelli provided their home country fans plenty to rejoice about as slugged it out Italy’s 21st-seeded Marta Menegatti/Viktoria Orsi Toth and won the bronze medal, recording a three-set victory in 54 minutes, 25-23, 13-21 and 15-10.

After each team won a match against the other early this season on the FIVB World Tour, the first set was as close as they get, going to overtime before Brazil broke the 23-23 tie with Antonelli landing a kill off of Italy’s Menegatti and Bendarczuk following that up with a service ace to finish the set. Following a tied score for the first four points, Italy broke open the second set, building up a nine-point lead at 20-11 while the Brazilians seemed to be looking to the third set to regroup and refocus.

In the deciding tiebreaker set, Italy scored the first two points before Brazil reacted. After exchanging points and down 3-1, Brazil started to catch fire as Bednarczuk blocked Orsi Toth for a point followed by Antonelli’s service ace to take the lead for good at 4-3. After Bednarczuk scored six of her team’s next seven points, four on kills, one on a looping hook shot that landed cross court, and the last on a service ace to give Brazil its largest lead of the set at 14-8. After Italy scored twice, the matched ended on a service error by Italy’s Orsi Toth.

Playing in their 11th FIVB World Tour event as a team, Brazil’s Bednarczuk/Antonelli earned their first bronze medal as a team and second final four finishing placement. After their bronze medal victory, they will leave São Paulo with a 6-2 record, an official third-place finish and $16,500 in prize money. This was the 62nd FIVB career event overall for Bednarczuk in seven seasons, her fifth career final four and her second bronze medal. This was the 88th career event overall for Antonelli in her nine seasons on the FIVB World Tour, her 37th final four and 12th bronze medal.

After their loss in the bronze medal match, Italy’s Menegatti/Orsi Toth will leave São Paulo with a 5-3 record here, an official fourth-place finish and $12,900 in prize money. This was the third FIVB World Tour event as a team and their second fourth place finish. For Menegatti, this was her 55th career FIVB World Tour event, her 14th career final four finish and sixth fourth place finish. For Orsi Toth, this was her 15th career FIVB World Tour event, her second FIVB final four finish and second fourth place finish.

In Saturday morning’s women’s semifinals, Germany’s Ludwig/Walkenhorst stunned the partisan home-country crowd by coming from behind to upset Brazil’s Bednarczuk/Antonelli, 22-24, 21-14, 15-11 in an exciting match that lasted exactly 60 minutes.

In the second semi, USA’s Ross/Walsh Jennings overcame the youth and tenacity of Italy’s Menegatti/Orsi Toth in three sets, 18-21, 21-15, 15-13 in a sterling 51-minute match.

Germany’s Ludwig/Walkenhorst, playing in just their ninth FIVB World Tour event together and third final four, won for the first time in three attempts this season against Brazil’s Bednarczuk/Antonelli.

In the first semi, he first set was extremely close and went to overtime before the Brazilians pulled it out 24-22. The score was tied 13 times in the first set including every point from 15 to 22 and there were only two lead changes with the Brazilians taking at 6-5 and Germany never regained it.With the score tied 22-22, Brazil ended it with a pair of strong kills, the first by Bednarczuk and the set winner by Antonelli.

In the second set, Brazil scored first like it did in the first set and while there was one early tie Germany took the lead for good at 4-3 and seemed to play flawless from that point on against the aggressive Brazilian duo. After slowly building up their lead to seven points three times, Germany ended it on a service error by Brazil.  The third set, like the second, was close early with three ties, Germany took the lead for good and 5-4 and completed a run of three straight points on a Ludwig service ace followed by a Walkenhorst block for a 7-4 lead and Brazil never got any closer the remainder of the set. Walkenhorst ended the set and match when her kill rolled off the top of the net and fell untouched to the sand.

In the second semi, USA’s Ross/Walsh Jennings kept their composure throughout the match, overcoming the own mistakes as well as the strong effort by Italy’s Menegatti/Orsi Toth to earn their spot in the gold medal match in just their second FIVB World Tour event as a team

In the first set between USA and Italy, the set was tied a total of eight times but the Americans, who scored first to start the match, took their biggest lead at 12-9 only to see the Italians rally to tie it up at 15-15 on successive blocks by Orsi Torth. From that point, the Italians continued to pressure the Americans and built up two three-point leads at 19-16 and 20-17 before and American service error ended the set.

In the second set, Italy scored first and it was tied eight times early with the USA taking the lead for good at 11-10 at the technical time out. Obviously learning things about their opponents during the first set, from that point on, USA kept the heat on, pulling out to four and then five point leads up to 20-15 and then the final margin at 21-15. After the technical time out, USA’s Ross rattled off three consecutive points more on two defensive pokes sandwiched between one her patented ace serves.

USA jumped on Italy early in the tiebreaker set scoring the first two points and then jumping to a 5-1 lead then 6-2 as USA’s Walsh scored on a block and two consecutive ace services.  USA’s Ross/Walsh Jennings kept serving and defending consistently to keep the margin at 3 to 4 points until a final rally by Italy closed the set to just one point at 14-13. Walsh finished the set and match with an artistic poke to move USA to the gold medal match.

São Paulo PURSE
The gold medal teams in each gender in the FIVB São Paulo Grand Slam will each split $33,000, the silver $22,000, the bronze $16,500 and fourth place $12,900.

The FIVB São Paulo Grand Slam marks the 35th time that Brazil has hosted a men’s and 30th time Brazil has hosted a women’s FIVB international beach volleyball world tour event. Brazil has staged a FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour event every year since the start of the international circuit for men in 1987 and women in 1992. It is also the 295th FIVB World Tour men’s tournament and 257th women’s tournament.

The 2013 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour is comprised of 10 Grand Slam events and the 2013 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships. Not part of the World Tour but counting towards FIVB points/earnings are five Open events (four double-gender tournaments and one women-only). The last of 10 FIVB World Tour Grand Slams will be the 2013 Grand Slam schedule will now end in China Oct. 22-27 at the double-gender $440,000 FIVB Xiamen Grand Slam.

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