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Day & Ross march on to King of the Court semis

Day (left) and Ross will have the benefit of using the golden ball in the semifinal round
Utrecht, Netherlands, September 11, 2020 – Things can change fast in beach volleyball and more so in a fast-paced tournament like King of the Court 2020 as Americans April Ross and Emily Day showed over the last 48 hours.

Temporary partners for this event, the Americans faced serious risk of elimination on their debut on Wednesday, but managed to advance from the playoff the next day. They came back stronger on Friday and topped a difficult Group A ahead of Italy’s Marta Menegatti/Viktoria Orsi Toth and the Netherlands' Puk Stubbe/Emma Piersma and advanced to the semifinal stage alongside the European duos.

“There’s definitely a little bit of luck involved,” Ross, a two-time Olympic medallist who normally plays with Alix Klineman, said about their comeback. “One of the benefits of us being a new partnership is that we’re still figuring things out, so we feel free to switch sides and do what’s right for the moment. It really worked for us.”

Brazilians Agatha Bednarczuk and Duda Lisboa, who were second in their pool on Thursday, also showed a more refined game in the group stage by finishing top of Group C. Second-placed Dutch sisters Emi and Mexime van Driel and third-placed Germans Laura Ludwig and Margareta Kozuch also advanced with the Brazilians, who had last played in March.

“It’s amazing to be here in this awesome tournament,” Agatha reflected. “It’s the first time we get to play since March and you can’t imagine how happy we are just to be here. I hadn’t played the Dutch team before and I was surprised to see how good they are. We hope we can keep playing well in the semifinals.”

In Group B, the teams that advanced were the Netherlands’ Sanne Keizer/Madelein Meppelink, Switzerland’s Joana Heidrich/Anouk Verge-Depre and France’s Lezana Placette/Alexia Richard, who finished first, second and third, respectively.

The tenth and final berth in the semifinal round will be decided in a playoff contest reuniting two Czech Republic teams – Michala Kvapilova/Michaela Kubickova and Marketa Slukova/Barbora Hermmanova – and Canadian twins Megan and Nicole McNamara, who finished fourth in their groups, on Saturday. Spain’s Liliana Fernandez/Elsa Baquerizo and Paula Soria/Belen Carro and the Netherlands’ Marleen van Iersel/Pleun Ypma were eliminated.

German rising stars Julius Thole and Clemens Wickler led the men’s teams advancing as the 2019 FIVB World Championship silver medallists topped Spain’s Pablo Herrera/Adrian Gavira and Latvia’s Martins Plavins/Edgars Tocs in Group A to make it to the semifinals.

Wickler’s serving game was on full display as the German had several aces during the day. In the final round, he scored one on Plavins, who used the golden ball his team had won the day before to replay the point only to see the defender score again in the exact same way.

“It’s easy getting a smile on my face when Clemens gets five or six aces in the final round,” Thole said, highlighting his partner’s performance. “It really helped in winning our group and I hope he can do it again in the semifinals.”

Group C winners were home favourites Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen, who kept Poland’s Piotr Kantor/Bartosz Losiak and Belgium’s Dries Koekelkoren/Tom van Walle under control. The Olympic medallists are another team that struggled at the beginning of the tournament, but improved their game as the days went on and arrive in the semifinals with no shortage of confidence.

“Our first day was really bad,” Brouwer recalled. “So today was like resurrection for us. We knew we were in trouble so we had a very good conversation, we put all the cards on the table and really addressed what we needed to do to get better. That’s what made us play a lot better now.”

Norway’s Anders Mol and Christian Sorum earned a golden ball for the second-straight day as they won Group B after tough competition against the Netherlands’ Jasper Bouter/Ruben Penninga and Chilean cousins Marco and Esteban Grimalt.

The men’s playoff will reunite the Netherlands’ Dirk Boehle/Mart van Werkhoven, Qatar’s Cherif Samba/Ahmed Tijan and Switzerland’s Marco Krattiger/Florian Breer, who ranked fourth in their groups. Norway’s Hendrik Mol/Mathias Berntsen, Latvia’s Aleksandrs Samoilovs/Janis Smedins and Canada’s Ben Saxton/Grant O’Gorman were knocked out of the tournament.

Saturday’s schedule will have as many as four rounds, with the group stage playoff, the semifinals, the semifinal playoffs and the finals.

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