London, Great Britain, July 31, 2012 – Brazilians Maria Antonelli and Talita Antunes had to be at their very best to record their second victory of the London 2012 Olympic Games, over Germans Laura Ludwig and Sara Goller in a three-set thriller.
After the Brazilians won the first set comfortably, Ludwig and Goller rallied in the second set and refused to be defeated despite facing nine match points against them and they eventually won the set to draw level. In the third though Maria Antonelli and Talita had a slight edge and finished with a 21-19, 28-30, 15-13 win.
“We had nine match points, but we could not close,” Maria Antonelli said. “At the beginning of the third we knew what we had to do. We didn't need to say much, just concentrate.”
Spanish pair Liliana Fernandez Steiner and Elsa Baquerizo McMillan also booked their place in the elimination rounds after they beat Argentine duo Maria Zonta and Anna Gallay.
"We did not start our best. We were kind of lost on the court,” Liliana said. “Before the match we had it clear who would do what, but that did not work out at all. So at the end of the first set we talked again: 'you do this, I'll do that'."
In the last match USA’s April Ross and Jennifer Kessy had to be at their best to defeat The Netherland’s Sanne Keizer and Marleen van Iersel.
They appeared in control after they won the first set, but a foot injury to Kessy allowed the Dutch to claim the second set. After a medical time out though Kessy was able to continue and they finished with a 21-15, 12-21, 15-8 win.
“We play those girls a lot and they are tough. Every time it goes three (sets) and it is a tough game,” Kessy said. “I have these feet that just freeze and it was from an hour before out on the practice court. It got to the point where I couldn’t feel my feet anymore, so I got some warm water and that really helped.”
Dutch duo Madelein Meppelink and Sophie van Gestel kept up their hopes of qualifying to the knockout stages with a win over Australians Becchara Palmer and Louise Bawden.
The pair lost to Brazil’s Maria Antonelli and Talita Antunes in their opening match, but dominated from start to finish to win 21-19, 21-15.
“For Dutch women it is the first beach volleyball victory in Olympic history,” Meppelink said. “We (the Dutch) have won a set before, but never a match. So we made history. We played really well, we know they play well in the second games, so we put a lot of pressure on them and it paid off.”
Italy’s Greta Cicolari and Marta Menegatti meanwhile recorded their second victory of their tournament to put themselves in poll position in Pool F.
They started slowly against Britain’s Zara Dampney and Shauna Mullins, who were seeking a second win in front of their home crowd. However, despite the 15,000 crowd being firmly behind the British pair Cicolari and Menegatti kept their focus to win 21-18, 21- 12.
Now they must beat Canada’s Annie Martin and Marie-Andree Lessard to go through the pool stages undefeated.
“We changed our strategy early in the first set,” Cicolari said. “We began by serving at Dampney, but she was receiving well, so we changed it around more and it seemed to work. Things have gone well up till now and we’re playing well. Now we’ll have to see what happens in a day and a half.”
Russian’s off mark
Russia’s Evgenia Ukolova and Ekaterina Khomyakova got off the mark with a win over Lessard and Martin. After the Russians won the first set, the Canadians refused to buckle in the second and drew level before Ukolova and Khomyakova edged the third set to 21-18, 28-30, 15-13 in an hour and 10 minutes.
"In the first and second set we made a lot of mistakes and the Canadians were playing well,” Ukolova said. “We were not aggressive. At timeout we decided to serve much more aggressively and it paid off."
Sydney 2000 gold medallist Kerri-Ann Pottharst looked back on the first three days of competition and gave her views of who was likely to make it through to the knockout rounds.
In London the teams have been split equally into six pools of and the teams play each other once in their group. The top two advance to the single-elimination knockout phase that begins on August 3 along with the two best third-placed teams. The remaining four third-place teams will then compete in playoff matches to determine which pairs will fill the final two places in the 16-team elimination bracket’s first round.
Sixteen teams qualified for the Games through the Olympic Ranking which is based primarily on world tour standings. Five more joined as winners of the AVC, CAVB, CEV, CSV and NORCECA Continental Cup Finals and two from the World Cup Olympic Qualification Tournament. Great Britain was granted a berth as hosts.
Pool play continues Tuesday starting at 9 a.m. and continues to the final match of the day which starts at 11 p.m.
The sold-out beach volleyball competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games is being held through Aug. 9 in a purpose-built 15,000-seat stadium on the grounds of Horse Guards Parade in central London. For current information, visit www.fivb.org.
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