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Austria’s new combination books early ticket to women’s elimination phase

Austria's Barbara Hansel and Katharina Schützenhöfer claimed a spot in the elimination phase on Tuesday
Stare Jablonki, Poland, July 2, 2013 – Much to their own surprise Austria’s Barbara Hansel and Katharina Schützenhöfer booked their ticket to the elimination rounds already on the second day of pool play at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships Mazury 2013. In a very challenging match the new team beat Swiss team Nadine Zumkehr and Joana Heidrich 2-1 (17-21, 21-19, 19-17) on Tuesday after a 2-1 victory over the Netherlands on the first day.

“Our initial plan was to focus on the game tomorrow (against Swiss team Kayser/Graessli) and win that one because we knew the games against Holland and this team today were really, really difficult”, Hansel said. “But now everything changes. Now we want more and I hope we get a good draw in elimination.”

For 29-year old Hansel this is already her best result ever at the World Championships. The experienced blocker participated in four editions but never got past pool play before. Hansel’s long time partner Sara Montagnolli said her goodbyes after last season and in 2013 she teamed up with talented junior player Katharina Schützenhöfer, who is only 19 years old.

“Austria is a really small country, there are not a lot of players to choose from. But she is the most talented”, Hansel explained her choice for Schützenhöfer. “She has been very successful since two or three years in the junior competitions. We have a lot of potential as a team and we can grow a lot if we work hard.”

So far the new partnership already resulted in a 9th place at the Corrientes Grand Slam. “We did quite well in the beginning already with some ups and a lot of downs. I am just happy that we found each other and that she said yes to this challenge. Because it really is a challenge going from one to three practices a day. It’s a big difference, but she adapted quickly and I am really happy that is going so well at our first world championships.”

Against Zumkehr, who also teamed up with a junior partner, Joanna Heidrich, after Simone Kuhn retired, the pressure was mostly on young Schützenhöfer, but she stood her ground. After Switzerland won the first set she and Hansel came back strong in the second.

In the tiebreak Heidrich needed a medical time-out at 1-0 after she injured her fingers blocking. It did not influence their game and it was Switzerland who reached their first match point at 14-12. Austria warded that one off, and four more after that to claim their ticket to the elimination phase at their first match point.

“We did not have a good start, it was really hard to get into the game. We knew we had to start with a lot of power against the Swiss team, because it is a really good team. But we fought back and then we got the feeling we could win the set and in the third set everything was possible. We fought hard and in the end we made the last point and that is the most important thing. We have one more match tomorrow but it does not matter now if we win or lose.”

Schützenhöfer, who won a bronze medal at the U21 World Championships with Lena Plesiutschnig two weeks ago, was a bit overwhelmed. “The level of play is much higher here. It really is a big difference, the block is higher, the side-outs are stronger and it’s harder to make a breakpoint. I did not expect to come so far this year. This is a great chance for me, it’s very good to play here and have the chance to get better with an experienced partner.“

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