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American Olympic Medalists Led Transavia Grand Slam Pool Winners

Kerri Walsh (left) and April Ross in action Thursday in Amsterdam during their 21-straight pool play win this season against Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy from Australia

The Hague, The Netherlands, July 17, 2014 - With teams from Brazil, Poland and Switzerland earning “byes” by clinching their pool titles Wednesday, five more women’s pairs earned a “free pass” to the second-round of the single-elimination bracket by winning their groups Thursday at the US$1-million Transavia Grand Slam presented by Bas Van de Goor Foundation.

Leading the “bye” crew Thursday were Olympic medalists and second-seeded April Ross and Kerri Walsh as the American girls secured the Pool B title with a 2-0 (21-17 and 24-22) win in 41 minutes over 15th-seeded Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy of Australia in a match played in Amsterdam.  The Australian win was not easy for Ross and Walsh as they started slowly before winning the first set.  The second set was close throughout before the Americans pulled it out in the end.

“We have been working really hard this tournament to improve on some elements of our game,” said Bawden after the Aussies finished its pool with a 2-1 match mark.  “I think we did a really good job and made a lot of effort.  It is not the result that we wanted, but we are making progress in our game.  We are excited to get back to The Hague and we are feeling good about the energy of our team.  We are looking forward to our first elimination match and have high hopes in advancing in this tournament.”

With three pool play wins this week, Ross and Walsh have won 21-straight group matches this season in seven events along with a 29-1 record for 10 FIVB World Tour events together.  The only setback was in their final 2013 pool play match in China when Italians Marta Menegatti and Viktoria Orsi Toth posted a two-set win over the Americans last October in Xiamen.  Overall, Ross and Walsh have a 49-5 FIVB match mark with five gold medal finishes.

Other pairs securing pool titles Thursday were third-seeded Kristyna Kolocova/Marketa Slukova of the Czech Republic, fourth-seeded Elsa Baquerizo/Liliana Fernandez of Spain, sixth-seeded Maria Antonelli/Juliana Felisberta and the17th-seeded Joana Heidrich/Nadine Zumkehr Switzerland.  Except for the Swiss pair, each team posted a perfect 3-0 pool play marks in the Transavia Grand Slam.

Heidrich and Zumkehr tied with top-seeded Madelein Meppelink/Marleen Van Iersel of The Netherlands and the 16th-seeded Salgado sisters (Carolina and Maria Clara) of Brazil for the top spot in Pool A.  The Swiss held the tie-breaker by having a better point ratio for the three matches among the tying pairs. 

Meppelink and Van Iersel, the reigning European champions, finished third in the group behind the Salgados.  Beach Volleyball power Brazil will now have five teams in the women’s single-elimination bracket, including seventh-seeded Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas and the 11th-seeded Fernanda Alves/Taiana Lima.

By winning their opening two matches Wednesday over higher-seeded pairs, the teams of 24th-seeded Monika Brzostek/Kinga Kolosinska of Poland, 26th-seeded Tanja Goricanec/Tanja Huberli Switzerland of Switzerland and 28th-seeded Larissa Franca/Talita Rocha of Brazil won their pools.  Of the three teams, Larissa and Talita completed the Transavia Grand Slam group competition with a 3-0 pool record.  The Poles and Swiss forfeited their matches Thursday since they had already secured their pool’s top spot and ended group play with a 2-1 record.

Sixteen other teams also qualified for the single-elimination rounds, including the German pairs of eighth-seeded Katrin Holtwick/Ilka Semmler and fifth-seeded Karla Borger/Britta Buthe.  The two teams competed for the FIVB World Tour gold medal last week in the Swiss Alps where Holtwick and Semmler defeated their compatriots for the title in the international’s circuit’s first-ever All-German women’s finale.

With the Transavia Grand Slam being the 10th women’s event on the 2014 FIVB World Tour, 24 of the women’s pool play matches were staged Wednesday and 12 more Thursday on the four sand courts on Scheveningen beach.  A total of eight pool play matches each were also played on specialty-made set ups in the Marktplein at Apeldoorn and the Gustav Mahlerplein in Amsterdam.

With the Transavia Grand Slam a “prelude”* to the 2015 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships to be played in The Netherlands, the final three days of the competition will be staged starting Friday at the Scheveningen courts where the medal matches will be played Sunday.  The final two teams in both gender’s competition with be competing for the gold medals and a share of the $70,000 first-place prize for each winning team.

Following this week’s event, the FIVB World Tour returns to the United States for the second-straight year as Long Beach in southern California hosts another $1-million event.  The international circuit returns to Europe in August for stops in Austria (Klagenfurt, July 29-August 3) and Poland (Stare Jablonki, August 19-24).

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