London, Great Britain, August 7, 2012 – Playing with the collective heart of the lioness that they are as a team, USA’s Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh staged one of the greatest rallies of their illustrious careers Tuesday night, coming from behind to win two overtime sets allowing them to pull out their semifinal victory over China’s Chen Xue and Xi Zhang and earn an unbelievable third consecutive trip to an Olympic gold medal match, this time at the London 2012 Olympic Games beach volleyball competition at Horse Guards Parade in central London.
A total 24 women’s beach volleyball teams from 17 countries started playing in London onJuly 28 in the purpose-built, sold-out 15,000-seat stadium on the grounds of the iconic Horse Guards Parade as the majestic venue also includes a portion of adjacent St. James Park in historic central London.
Truly enjoying their final hour upon the stage and displaying a tenacious that honored the gallant warriors who have graced the field of Horse Guards Parade, USA’s third-seeded May-Treanor/Walsh, who won the gold medal in both Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 stopped the courageous effort by China’s second-seeded Xue/Zhang , Beijing 2008 bronze medalists, to win in two spectacular sets that left the standing-room-only crowd speechless and awed, 22-20, 22-20 in 44 minutes. Not only were the scores identical, the length of each set was also the same (22 minutes each) between two such evenly-matched teams.
The second women’s semifinal between Brazil’s top-seeded Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca and USA’s fourth-seeded Jennifer Kessy/April Ross will start at 9 p.m. Tuesday during the second session as the first and last matches of the evening are men’s semifinals. The winners of the two women’s semifinals will meet for London 2012 Olympic gold Wednesday at 9 p.m. preceded by the bronze medal match at 7 p.m. between the two losing teams from Tuesday’s semifinals..
Changing their normal tactics to attack with less velocity and more placement shots, in the first set, China’s Xue/Zhang jumped to a 3-0 lead, increasing the margin to four at 7-3, extending it to five at 11-6 and then six at 13-7. Unshaken and trailing by six points and without calling a time out, the USA’s masterful May-Treanor/Walsh started a massive comeback with an innocent enough poke shot by May after one of a countless number of rallies who are as good a friends off the court as they are adversaries on it.
In the end, USA’s magnificent May-Treanor/Walsh scored six consecutive points with voracious blocks, stinging ace serves and precision kills to tie the score for the first time in the set at 13-13.
Even though China had called one time out, the march of the May-Treanor/Walsh brigade moved on. After great battles kept the score tied at 14, 15, and 16, the only lead change of the historic match USA’s May-Treanor/Walsh went ahead 17-16, but China’s remarkable Xue/Zhang weren’t giving an inch in this joust for the ages.
The Chinese tied the score at 17-17 and after the USA had taken it’s largest lead of the set and had set point at 20-18, China’s Xue/Zhang proved once again how elite their team has developed, saving two set points, before Walsh blocked a Zhang kill attempt and Zhang had a hitting error into the net to end the set.
The second set started out like USA’s May-Treanor/Walsh had it all figured out, scoring first and building a four-point lead at 12-8 only to see the young Chinese lionesses battle back to tie the score at 16-16, taking the lead in the first of only two lead changes, 17-16, holding the edge to move to set point, 20-19.
At that point USA’s May-Treanor/Walsh displayed their hearts of champions once again, saving set point on a Walsh poke shot over Xue, followed quickly by a May-Treanor poke off of a diving Zhang and then winning the set and match on another patented block by Walsh over Zhang to the roar of the crowd who were standing in amazement for the last four points of the match.
Certainly a match that no one wanted to see end except USA’s May-Treanor/Walsh, the match statistics reflected the closeness of the match as well. For the USA, May-Treanor had 22 kills, one block and 17 digs while her long-time teammate Walsh contributed three ace serves, eight kills, four blocks and seven digs to the winning effort.
For China, Xue recorded 22 kills (the same as May-Treanor), one block and seven digs while Zhang had 13 kills and a game-high 27 digs.
USA’s May-Treanor/ Walsh, two-time defending Olympic Gold Medalists who have now won 20 consecutive matches in the Olympic Games without a loss and have a 40-1 set record as they improving their series history with China’s Xue/Zhang to 10-5, breaking a three-match losing streak the Americans had to the Chinese.
Following the match, Walsh said, “There is relief, overwhelming relief, joy and a little humility. I’m so proud of us. We didn’t play perfectly, we were so far from perfect, but our minds were perfect and our hearts were perfect and that is why we won. I feel like we eeked it out but had a lot of heart against a very good team. We didn’t play well and against a good, powerful team we had to be smart to get a win. I think our experience absolutely helped. We have had an amazing 11 years together and experienced everything. We have a huge match tomorrow and have a gold that we want to achieve.”
Afterwards, Xue commented, “I think we still had a chance in the first set when we had a six-point lead, but we kind of lost it at that point. We played good, they played better.”
Current event information is available at www.fivb.org.
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