Upsets highlight women’s elimination first round
Vasiliki Arvaniti, a three-time Greek Olympian, and Panagiota Karagkouni won their fifth match in the Rio Grand Slam to highlight the morning round with a 2-1 (21-18, 16-21, 15-9) win in 48 minutes over 28th-seeded qualifiers Natalia Dubovcova and Dominika Nestarcova of the Slovak Republic. It was the first FIVB World Tour match between the two teams.
• Rio Grand Slam website
• Country quota results - Men
• Country quota results - Women
• Qualification - Men
• Qualification - Women
• Main draw - Men
• Main draw - Women
The 32nd-seeded Arvaniti and Karagkouni now face fourth-seeded Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst of Germany in one of eight second round elimination matches Friday afternoon on Copacabana that will set the quarterfinal lineup for Saturday on the same site where the Rio 2016 Olympic Games will be played. The Germans defeated Arvaniti and Karagkouni in their only international meeting at the 2013 Rome Grand Slam.
Other seed-break-throughs during the morning rounds were posted by 20th-seeded Isabelle Forrer/Anouk Verge-Depre of Switzerland and ninth-seeded Lauren Fendrick/Brooke Sweat of the United States. The Swiss eliminated 14th-seeded Katrin Holtwick/Ilka Semmler of Germany 2-0 (21-18, 21-17) in 36 minutes while the Americans ousted fifth-seeded
Juliana Felisberta/Taiana Lima of Brazil 2-0 (23-21, 21-15).
The Swiss will now play their second German team Friday for a spot in Saturday’s quarterfinals when Forrer and Verge-Depre meet 27th-seeded qualifiers Chantal Laboureur/Julia Sude in the third FIVB World Tour meeting between the two teams that is tied 1-1. The Americans will challenge 10th-seeded Karla Borger and Britta Buthe of Germany as the FIVB series is tied at 2-2 with Fendrick and Sweat defeating their European rivals at the World Championships last season in the Netherlands.
Holtwick and Semmler held a 10-3 edge in the FIVB World Tour series with the Swiss, but Forrer and Verge-Depre have now won the last three matches against the Germans. With Juliana and Lima playing in only their second FIVB World Tour event together, the Brazil-USA match was the first meeting between the two teams.
All four players on the losing teams competed in the final four at the 2015 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships in the Netherlands. Lima placed second with Fernanda Alves in the World Championships while Juliana and Maria Antonelli defeated Holtwick and Semmler for the bronze medal.
The Fendrick and Sweat win was especially sweet for the Americans, who are competing against two other tandems from the North American country for spots in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. With a guaranteed ninth-place finish this week, Fendrick and Sweat will improve their point total on the provisional ranking list by 240 points.
Fendrick and Sweat entered this week’s event with 4,090 points with Emily Day/Jen Kessy (3,860 points) and April Ross/Kerri Walsh Jennings (3,140). While Ross and Walsh Jennings have improved their total by 360 points, Day and Kessy finished 25th this week and needed to place 17th to improve their point total.
“We had a really good game plan going in,” said Sweat. “Once we find our rhythm with pass and set defense usually comes way easier for us. When we’re in the rhythm with something, we tend to be in the rhythm with everything. Pass and set was key to being a little more free on defense. Lauren did a great job blocking, controlling the net. It made it easier for me to make moves in the backcourt picking shots up.”
After placing 25th two weeks ago at the Maceio Open in Brazil, Sweat added that her team’s win Thursday over a pair from Canada was much-needed. It wasn’t just a win, it was we got our game back. We hadn’t won a match until our last pool play yesterday so we needed that win and we had a lot of momentum going into today. If we play solid ball we know we can win matches like this so it feels good. Obviously there’s more work to do but we’re going in the right direction.”
Fendrick said it “was a good win. That’s definitely a good team. We found our rhythm inside-out which was super important. We are always a good defensive team so points are always going to come but it felt really good to find our sideout rhythm. I had to take some time off for pretty much a month of the preseason so we got a little bit of a late start coming into these tournaments. We had only a week’s practice going into Maceio so it feels good to get back in the rhythm together. I tore my calf 6-7 weeks ago so I’m still getting the strength back from that so these wins feel really good and it feels good to be clicking with Brooke on the court.”
Fendrick also said the momentum from Thursday’s win was important as it “was the first game that our sideout game clicked so that’s what we’ve been striving for and to find that and bring that into this match here was huge. Hopefully we can keep building on that and carry that forward through this tournament and this whole tournament.”