London, Great Britain, August 5, 2012 – FIVB world champions Juliana Felisberta and Larissa Franca were given a scare but held their nerve to reach the London 2012 Olympic Games semi-finals when they beat Laura Ludwig and Sara Goller 21-10, 21-19 at Horse Guards Parade.
The result sets up a semi-final clash with 2009 world champions Jennifer Kessy and April Ross of the USA on Tuesday.
“We have two more matches and we won, but for now I want to forget the final,” Juliana said. “I played terribly in the second but that is good for us for the rest of tournament. You can’t start to think about the final, you have to go point by point, step by step.”
Early on the Brazilians were quick to stamp their authority on proceedings and while the Germans had flashes of inspiration in the first set, it was not enough to challenge the number one seeds.
It appeared to be going the same way when the Brazilians led 18-13 in the second, but the Germans found some inspired form and scored six quick points to take a 19-18 lead. They were unable to maintain the run though and the Brazilians took the next three points to seal the win.
“I said to Larissa ‘let’s go, don’t give up,” Juliana added. “The point is Juliana and Larissa have a long history and we felt it. I didn’t ever think we would lose the second set.”
Fourth seeds still in contention
Fourth seeds Ross and Kessy ensured there remains the possibility of an all-USA final when they defeated the Czech Republic’s Marketa Slukova and Kristyna Kolocova 25-23, 21-18.
Both sides pushed each other hard throughout the first set. The Czech pair were the first to have set point, but the US duo saved it and had one of their own that the Czechs saved. After both sides had saved and lost another set point each, it was Kessy and Ross who managed to hold their serve and take the lead.
Kessy and Ross were quick to establish their lead early in the second set and they quickly built up a score which the Czechs were unable to reel in. They managed to save two match points, but Slukova was unable to deal with a powerful Ross spike which gave them the win.
“For about two-thirds I think I played well,” Ross said. “I don’t know what happened at the end, maybe I thought they would roll over which is a terrible thing to think at the Olympics and of course they didn’t. I’ll take the win, we’re in the semis and I’m delighted.”
Hat-trick of gold within range
Defending Olympic champions Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor remain on course for an unprecedented third consecutive Olympic gold medal after they reached the semi-finals with a 21-13, 21-13 victory over Greta Cicolari and Marta Menegatti.
“I think every match we are getting stronger and stronger because on the court we are facing fearsome competition,” Walsh said. “So our next match is going to be even tougher than the one tonight.”
Walsh and May-Treanor were quickly into their stride and didn’t allow their Italian pair to find their rhythm. Walsh dominated at the net and pounced on any loose balls that fell her way, while anything that reached the back of the court was swept up by May-Treanor.
The second set began in the same vein when Walsh took tapped down at the net to open the scoring. While Menegatti and Cicolari managed to save two match points, Walsh set up a spike for May-Treanor on the third that she fired down the line for the win.
Victory sets up a meeting with the Beijing 2008 bronze medallists, Chen Xue and Zhang Xi, who beat the Americans in emphatic style in the final of the Moscow Grand Slam in the most recent match between the two sides.
“I think we’re a different team,” May-Treanor said. “We’ve saw the old team, so it is hard to compare that, obviously it is in the back of our minds, but it is a completely team from what you saw in Moscow.”
China on course to match Beijing
Chinese pair Xue and Zhang Xi were the first team to reach the last four after they defeated Austrian sisters Doris and Stefanie Schwaiger 21-18, 21-11. It means they are now one win away from bettering the bronze medal they won at Beijing 2008.
After an even start to the first set Xue and Zhang Xi began to pull away, but two points out from winning the set, the Austrians started to mount a comeback. However, the Chinese took a time-out that allowed them to regain their composure and take the lead.
In the second set though the Chinese came out with renewed vigour and didn’t give the Austrians the chance to settle. Xue was dominant at the net and her powerful presence there was responsible for a number of points the Chinese duo won. The Schwaigers saved one match, but the Chinese had already taken the match away from them and they won the match with a powerful spike from Xue.
“We played great tonight and the Schwaigers didn’t play their best,” said Zhang Xi. “We stuck to our game plan and made the plays we need to make and kept our errors to a very few.”
In London the teams were divided equally into six pools of and the teams played each other once in their group. The top two advanced to the single-elimination knockout phase that began on August 3 along with the two best third-placed teams. The remaining four third-place teams competed in playoff matches to determine which pairs filled 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.
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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