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Brazil, USA & Canada dominate Itapema quarterfinals

Itapema, Brazil, May 17, 2019 – After two days of main draw and the conclusion of 48 matches, eight teams still stand at the women’s tournament of the Itapema Open, the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour four-star event held at the Meia Praia, in Brazil. 

Hosts Brazil, the USA and Canada have each two teams among the top-eight with duos from Russia and the Netherlands also keeping their medal hopes alive at the Brazilian coastal city entering the weekend.

Among the home teams, veterans Talita Antunes and Taiana Lima had the busiest day as they had to win a pair of matches to advance to the quarterfinals. In the first one, they downed reigning European champions Sanne Keizer and Madelein Meppelink of the Netherlands in three sets (21-19, 21-23, 15-13).

Later, in the Round of 16, they ended the 16-match winning streak of compatriots Ana Patricia Silva and Rebecca Cavalcanti with a straight-set (21-16, 21-13) victory. It’s the second quarterfinal appearance of the team since it was formed, at the end of last year, when Talita returned to the courts after giving birth to her first son, Renato.

“We had played them twice before, but I feel that we’re in a completely different level now,” Taiana explained. “We’re better prepared and in better shape, especially Talita. We lost a tough match against Canada yesterday, so today we focused on serving well in order to make our defensive system work. Our side out was great too and that was pivotal to our win. It’s great to see our improvement and to secure such an important victory.” 

Stubbe and van Iersel return in good form
Marleen van Iersel and Joy Stubbe are undefeated in Itapema

Their opponents in the quarterfinals will be one of the two European teams left, the one of the Netherlands’ Joy Stubbe and Marleen van Iersel. The Dutch are competing in the Tour for the first time in four months after treating a minor injury which they sustained at the four-star tournament in the Hague, in January.

After winning a pair of pool play matches on Thursday, Stubbe and van Iersel needed to bring their best game to prevail over Germans Chantal Laboureur and Sandra Ittlinger in two very close sets (25-23, 25-23).

“It feels great to be back and even better to be playing so well,” Stubbe said. “We missed some tournaments and we were dying to compete again, but our focus is on the summer events and we didn’t want to risk anything. We’ve practiced with the Germans last week here in Itapema and it made the game even tougher. I just think we were a little calmer in the deciding moments and we fought very hard for each point.”

USA’s Kerri Walsh Jennings/Brooke Sweat and Canada’s Sarah Pavan/Melissa Humana-Paredes will clash in another quarterfinal duel in Itapema. The American qualifiers posted a two-set (21-15, 21-14) win over Slovakia’s Natalia Dubovcova/Andrea Strbova while the Canadians, who played twice on Friday, eliminated Brazil’s Maria Elisa Antonelli/Carol Salgado also in two sets (21-16, 21-8).

The other American team qualified, the one of Alix Klineman and April Ross, will face the reigning Itapema Open champions Agatha Bednarczuk and Duda Lisboa of Brazil. Klineman and Ross prevailed in three sets (21-16, 12-21, 15-10) in the all-American duel with Summer Ross and Sara Hughes while the Brazilians also needed three (19-21, 21-17, 15-13) sets to down Spain’s Liliana Fernandez and Elsa Baquerizo. 
The final quarterfinal match-up will reunite Russia’s Nadezda Markroguzova/Svetlana Kholomina and Canada’s Heather Bansley/Brandie Wilkerson. The Europeans advanced after a straight-set (21-19, 21-14) triumph over Canadian twins Megan and Nicole McNamara, while Bansley and Wilkerson silenced the center court with a 2-0 (21-17, 21-17) victory over Brazilians Barbara Seixas and Fernanda Berti.

The quarterfinal matches will all be played on Saturday morning with the semifinals to follow in the afternoon. The medal matches will close the event at the Brazilian coastal city on Sunday morning. 

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