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Women’s final four set for Saturday’s semis at FIVB São Paulo Grand Slam

Netherlands' Marleen van Iersel launches the Mikasa over Russia's Evgenia Ukolova as van Iersel and Madelein Meppelink, middle, won twice on Friday to earn a final four spot and advance to Saturday's semis at the FIVB Sao Paulo Grand Slam.
São Paulo, Brazil, September 26, 2014 —Rapidly building to a close, two teams from host country Brazil and one each from Italy and the Netherlands have survived the onslaught of the world’s to players to reach Saturday’s semifinals of  the double-gender US$800,000 FIVB São Paulo Grand Slam. The 2014 FIVB Bach Volleyball World Tour stop is being held in São Paulo through Sunday in a purpose-built venue on the grounds of the Barueri Arena.

The last of 10 FIVB Grand Slams on the 2014 FIVB World Tour calendar, the FIVB São Paulo Grand Slam started on Tuesday.  On Saturday, the women’s and men’s semifinals will be played along with the two bronze medal matches. The women’s and men’s gold medal matches and awarding ceremony will close the FIVB São Paulo Grand Slam will conclude the event on Sunday.

Surviving a rash of late-round upsets Friday, meeting in Saturday morning’s semifinals at Barueri complex will be Italy’s 11th-seeded Marta Menegatti/Viktoria Orsi Toth vs. Netherlands’ ninth-seeded Marleen van Iersel/Madelein Meppelink followed by Brazil’s 13th-seeded sisters Maria Clara Salgado/Carolina Salgado vs. Brazil’s seventh-seeded Larissa Franca/Talita Antunes in a host-country matchup.

The FIVB São Paulo Grand Slam is the 310th FIVB men’s tournament since its first event in 1987 and the 274th FIVB women’s tournament since FIVB began women’s competitions in 1992. There has been at least one FIVB World Tour event in Brazil since it started 28 years ago and this is the 36th men’s and 31st women’s FIVB World Tour event held in Brazil.

Gold medal winning teams in each gender in São Paulo will split $57,000, silver will receive $43,000, bronze medalists get $32,000 and the fourth place finishers will earn $24,000 of the $800,000 total purse.

Saturday’s women’s semifinals will have Italy’s 11th-seeded Marta Menegatti/Viktoria Orsi Toth meeting Netherlands’ ninth-seeded Marleen van Iersel/Madelein Meppelink followed by Brazil’s 13th-seeded sisters Maria Clara Salgado/Carolina Salgado battling compatriots Brazil’s seventh-seeded Larissa Franca/Talita Antunes.

In the first semifinal, Italy’s Menegati/Orsi Toth will meeting Netherlands’ van Iersel/Meppelink for just the second as the Dutch won the first meeting in three sets in April. As a team, this is the fourth final four appearance with no medals so far for the Italians in 16 events as a team. Individually, Menegatti is playing her 68th FIVB World Tour event with four silver medals to her credit.  Orsi Toth is playing her 28th tournament overall with three fourth place finishes on the world tour. In 2010, the Italian duo won the silver medal at the FIVB U19 World Championships. Netherland’s van Iersel/Meppelink are playing in their 11th tournament as a team and this is their third final four appearance with one bronze medal. Individually, Meppelink is playing in her 62nd FIVB tournament with one gold medal and van Iersel is playing her 97th event with four career wins.

All veteran players and FIVB gold medal winners, the second semifinal will be the first FIVB World Tour meeting between Brazil’s Salgado sisters and Brazil’s Larissa/Talita. As a team, this is the 124th FIVB World Tour event for the Salgado sisters and their 21st final four appearance with two gold medals as a team. Brazil’s Larissa/Talita, both former FIVB World Tour champions, are playing in just their fifth FIVB World Tour event together with two gold medals. Individually, Larissa has 48 career FIVB gold medals while Talita has earned 20 total gold medals.

Brazil’s Larissa Franca/Talita held off Brazil’s top-seeded Juliana Felisberta/Maria Antonelli, 21-15, 23-21 in 38 minutes, Italy’s Menegatti/ Orsi Toth eliminated USA’s second-seeded April Ross/Kerri Walsh Jennings in straight sets, 21-16, 21-17 in 35 minutes, Netherlands’ van Iersel/Meppelink stopped Canada’s 18th-seeded Melisa Humana-Parades/Taylor Pischke in two sets, 21-16, 21-15 in 35 minutes and Brazil’s 13th-seeded sisters Maria Clara Salgado/Carolina Salgado won in two sets over Germany’s 10th-seeded Laura Ludwig/Julia Sude, 21-15, 21-18 in 45 minutes.

USA’s Ross/Walsh Jennings, 4-1 in São Paulo, Canada’s Humana-Paredes/Pischke, 4-2, Germany’s Ludwig/Sude 4-2 and Brazil’s Juliana/Antonelli 4-1 all leave São Paulo with official fifth-place finishes and purses of $17,000 per team.

Viktoria Orsi Toth (ITA): "It was very difficult with the weather, with the ball, with the great team on the other side it was our first win against them this year, so we are really really really really really happy. We focused on our side-out, we also served better than them."

Marta Menegatti (ITA): "It is always difficult with the rain, and it was so hard, and watching the ball is very difficult, it is not normal conditions for a beach volleyball player, but we were very good, we didn't think about the weather, only us and I think it worked. I think we were more aggressive."

Larissa (BRA) (on her matches against former partner Juliana) “Each game (we play) has a different story, whoever loses always will want to get back and whoever wins will always try to do everything to keep winning. They are always games with big close scores.+
“This one also had to deal with the difficult conditions, but we managed to adapt so that the rain and the wind didn't bother us too much. The important thing is that me and Talita are progressing, gaining confidence and working hard. We will do everything to play a final at home because it's a very special feeling. My friends and family, everybody watches and cheers for us.”

In the first four quarterfinal matches Friday, Brazil’s Juliana/Antonelli stopped Czech Republic’s fourth-seeded Marketa Slukova/Kristyna Kolocova, 21-14, 21-16 in 34 minutes, USA’s April Ross/Walsh Jennings overpowered Germany’s sixth-seeded Karla Borger/Britta Buthe, 21-12, 21-10 in just 30 minutes, Brazil’s Larissa/Talita beat compatriots 31st-seeded Liliane Maestrini/Rebecca Cavalcanti, 21-16, 21-16 in 34 minutes, Brazil’s Salgado sisters outlasted Argentina’s 17th-seeded Ana Gallay/Georgina Klug, 24-22, 18-21 and 15-13 in 67 minutes, the longest match of the tournament.

In the other four quarterfinals, Netherlands’ van Iersel/Meppelink defeated Switzerland’s 14th-seeded Tanja Goricanec/Tanja Huberli, 21-16, 21-15 in 34 minutes, Italy’s Menegatti/Orsi Toth held off USA’s 23rd-seeded Kimberly Dicello/Lane Carico, 21-16, 21-19 in 38 minutes, Germany’s Ludwig/Sude  bested Canada’s 25th-seeded Jamie Lynn Broder/Kristina Valjas, 21-15, 21-15 in 34 minutes and Canada’s Humana-Parades/Pischke eliminated Netherlands’ 28th-seeded Rimke Braakman/Jantine van der Vlist , 21-14, 21-14 in 34 minutes.

The losers in the round of 16 were eliminated and leave São Paulo with official ninth-place finishes and purses of $11,000 per team.

As the host nation, Brazil started with six women’s teams in the field of 32, four teams automatically pre-seeded into the main draw and the two that advanced from the qualifier. For the women, the pre-seeded main draw teams from Brazil 19-7 overall so far as individual Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas, (1-2), Juliana Felisberta/Maria Antonelli (4-1), Larissa Franca/Talita Antunes (5-0) and Liliane Maestrini/Rebecca Cavalcanti (2-3). Advancing from the qualification tournament were Taiana Lima/Fernanda Alves (1-2) and sisters Carolina and Maria Clara Salgado (6-0). Bednarczuk/Seixas and Lima/Alves were eliminated from pool play and the other four advanced to Friday’s start of elimination play. Juliana/Antonelli finished fifth, Maestrini/Calvalcanti finished ninth, while Larissa/Talita and the Salgado sisters are both still playing.

With extremely enthusiastic standing-room-only crowds in the stadium center courts each event, in the first 30 women’s events in Brazil, the home country has earned 18 gold medals following the by the USA with 11 and China has the other gold. Brazil has swept the podium five times in women’s tournaments. Most recently, the Brazilian women’s most recent sweep was in 2008 in Guarajà.


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