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From Qualifier to “Final 4” for Brazilians Fernanda & Lima at Transavia Grand Slam

Taiana Lima (right) and Fernanda Alves of Brazil advance to the Transavia Grand Slam semi-finals after defeating a team from Switzerland on Scheveningen beach Saturday

The Hague, The Netherlands, July 19, 2014 - Four days after being on the “brink” of elimination from the women’s competition at the US$1-million Transavia Grand Slam presented by Bas Van de Goor Foundation, Brazilians Fernanda Alves and Taiana Lima have moved successfully through pool play and elimination matches to reach the “final four” of the FIVB World Tour event on Scheveningen beach.

With a 2-0 (21-6 and 21-7) win in 31 minutes over 17th-seed Nadine Zumkehr/Joana Heidrich of Switzerland, Fernanda and Lima have advanced to their first FIVB World Tour semi-final together in only their second international tournament of the partnership after the Brazilian pair placed ninth last week at the Gstaad Grand Slam in the Swiss Alps.

Fernanda and Lima will now play -seeded Kristyna Kolocova and Marketa Slukova of the Czech Republic in Saturday afternoon’s second women’s semi-final followed by a match between  sixth-seeded Maria Antonelli and Juliana Felisberta of Brazil and eighth-seeded Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler of Germany.

“I think the schedule has played out pretty good for us this week,” said the 30-year Lima.  “Despite playing in the qualifier, we were not really tired entering today’s match with the Swiss.  Fernanda has been playing great and we are gaining confidence as a team with every match.  Our match with the Czechs will be extremely tough as they have won two gold medals this season and have been playing together since 2009.  Fernanda has played in only six FIVB World Tour events, so we will be at a disadvantage to the experience level.”

To earn a spot in the “money” rounds of the 10th women’s event on the 2014 FIVB World Tour calendar, Fernanda and Lima had to rally from a first-set defeat and a 16-12 disadvantage in the second set to defeat the Nystrom twins (Emilia and Erika) of Finland 2-1 (27-29, 21-18 and 15-13) in a 58-minute qualifying match Tuesday.

Once in the Transavia Grand Slam Main Draw, the Brazilians have now posted five match wins with their only setback being a 2-1 (16-21, 23-21, 25-27) decision in 70 minutes to sixth-seeded compatriots Maria Antonelli and Juliana Felisberta in a final pool play match Thursday.  To advance to Saturday’s action, Fernanda and Lima posted another win over a Brazilian rival with a 2-1 (21-15, 15-21 and 21-19) victory in 52 minutes over 28th-seeded Talita Rocha and Larissa Franca.

Lima will enter the “final four” matches seeking to win another gold medal at The Hague Beach Stadium as she and Talita topped the 2013 Scheveningen beach podium by defeating the Salgado sisters (Carolina and Maria Clara) of Brazil in the finale.  The win was one of five gold medal finishes for the Lima/Talita partnership as the pair finished as the 2013 FIVB World Tour champions.

In other quarter-final matches Saturday, Holtwick and Semmler posted a 2-0 win (21-18 and 23-21) in 40 minutes over ninth-seeded Fan Wang and Yuan Yue of China, Antonelli and Juliana out-lasted compatriots and seventh-seeded Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas 2-1 (14-21, 21-16 and 16-14) in 54 minutes and Kolocova and Slukova defeated the 16th-seeded Salgado sisters 2-0 (21-16 and 21-14) in 41 minutes.

“Our first set wasn’t good, we made a lot of mistakes,” said Antonelli after her match with Agatha and Seixas.  “We changed our strategy before the second set and the second and third set were ours.  We had some good rallies.  That wasn’t luck; we train a lot on that.  And we have a coach who believes in us very much, that helps.  Now we play against Holtwick and Semmler, we’ve played against them in Gstaad and we know they’re very tough.”

Enroute to their gold medal finish in Gstaad, Holtwick and Semmler defeated Antonelli and Juliana 2-0 (22-20 and 27-25) in a 48-minute semi-final match last Saturday in the Alps.  Antonelli added that she and Juliana “we’re going to the hotel now and we’ll study them.  They play very different than Agatha and Seixas, so we’ll have to adapt our strategy to that.”

As a “prelude” to the 2015 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships, the final two days of the Transavia Grand Slam will be staged 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).

Women's Quarter-final Quotes

Maria Antonelli, Brazil - “Our first set wasn’t good, we made a lot of mistakes.  We changed our strategy before the second set and the second and third set were ours.  We had some good rallies. That wasn’t luck; we train a lot on that. And we have a coach who believes in us very much, that helps. Now we play against Holtwick and Semmler, we’ve played against them in Gstaad and we know they’re very tough. But we’re going to the hotel now and we’ll study them. They play very different than Agatha and Seixas, so we’ll have to adapt our strategy to that.

Barbara Seixas, Brazil - "It is always difficult to play against Juliana and Antonelli. We know each other very well, because we play both on the Brazilian tour. It was a great match and we played both very well. The game was about who made the first mistake.  We started the game very well. We were focused on the game. In the second set Antonelli entered the game and they played better defensively. Our serve wasn't as good as in the second set. We took off the pressure. But we always believed in a good result. Unfortunately we didn't won.  Next week we're going to Long Beach. Yeah!."   

Agatha Bednarczuk, Brazil - "I like to play in The Hague. First we played in Apeldoorn. It was a kind of complicated. But it will be a great place to hold the World Championships."

Maria Clara Salgado, Brazil - “It was 9-9 in the first set but then it went wrong. I played very bad, I don’t know why. The Czechs served very well, that was hard. Normally we play much better but unfortunately not today. We asked for the sand to be watered, because it was so hot. It’s too hot. But we’re prepared for that, and everybody has to deal with that. They’re not better than us, but this game they were.

Marketa Skulova, Czech Republic - "Despite the score, it was a difficult match. Any match is easy. The Brazilians played very well. They're a great team and, but we played really strong. We had a good serve, we played defensively very well. The conditions we're really tough. But we had a good focus. We love to win this tournament."

Kristyna Kolocova, Czech Republic - "It was very hot, but the conditions in The Hague are much better than in Gstaad. I think the recovery of your body is much faster when the sun shines."

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