From the brink of elimination to netting a quarterfinal berth
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 11, 2016 - Karla Borger and Britta Buthe were on the brink of elimination here Friday afternoon on Copacabana as they trailed 14-10 in the third and deciding set against an American pair that was in control of the women’s match at the US$800,000 Rio Grand Slam.
Several minutes later, the 10th-seeded Borger and Buthe were headed to the quarter-finals in the first “big” event on the 2015-2016 FIVB World Tour calendar after posting a 2-1 (20-22, 21-13, 17-15) win in 54 minutes over ninth-seeded Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat of the United States.
“I thought we were done,” said the 27-year old Borger, who is playing in only her second FIVB World Tour event since having back surgery last August. “But my partner keep me good and said we stay could win. We played it one rally at a time and were able to catch the Americans by winning the next five points.”
Buthe, who is also 27, said it was Borger’s serving and “our defense that won the match at the end. I knew we could keep alive by believing we could comeback. We lost our focus and the Americans were making the plays. At the end, we just served and defended.”
With their fourth-straight win in the competition, Borger and Buthe will face 13th-seeded Marta Menegatti/Viktoria Orsi Toth of Italy in one of four women’s quarter-final matches to open play Saturday on Copacabana. The two teams have met five times on the FIVB World Tour with the Germans winning three times, including two weeks ago in Maceio, Brazil.
OUSTING BRAZILIAN OLYMPIANS
The Italians ousted second-seeded Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca of Brazil 2-1 (21-17, 19-21, 16-14) in a 58-minute match on the Copacabana center court. It was second meeting between the two teams as Talita and Larissa defeated Menegatti and Orsi Toth in the gold medal match at the 2014 São Paulo Grand Slam. Both Talita and Larissa are two-time Olympians for Brazil and will be playing together in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games as the host country entrant.
When asked about their next opponent, Borger said “I don’t know. I am just glad that we won this match. I am just amazed we came back.” For Buthe, it was that old saying - “never give up until the last point. We did not quit. We competed to the end and were rewarded for playing tough until the end.”
When looking back on the match, Borger and Buthe might be rewarded with an Olympic berth via the FIVB World Tour. The pair is currently the third-ranked German team on the provisional Rio 2016 Olympic qualifying list behind compatriots Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst (5,740) and Katrin Holtwick/Ilka Semmler (4,230) with 4,140 points.
While the two top-ranked German pairs have satisfied their participation of playing in at least 12 FIVB and/or continental championships, Borger and Buthe are one event short of reaching the minimum numbers of participations. A win over Talita and Larissa Saturday would improve their standing for reaching Copacabana’s quadrennial event this August.
In addition to the Germany vs. Italy quarter-final match, the other pairings have top-seeded Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas of Brazil playing 20th-seeded Isabelle Forrer/Anouk Verge-Depre of Switzerland, 12th-seeded Monika Brzostek/Kinga Kolosinska of Poland challenging third-seeded Heather Bansley/Sarah Pavan of Canada, and fourth-seeded Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst of Germany meeting April Ross/Kerri Walsh Jennings of the United States.
Like Menegatti and Orsi Toth, who opened play Friday with a 2-0 (21-19, 21-19) win over 30th-seeded qualifiers Mariafe Artacho and Nicole Laird of Australia, Forrer and Verge-Depre also had to play two matches Friday to reach the quarter-finals. The Swiss women defeated two German teams to advance to their third-ever Grand Slam quarter-final.
With the men’s and women’s quarter- and semi-finals being played Saturday on the seaside courts, the medal matches are scheduled for Sunday morning. The winning teams in both the men’s and women’s gold medal match will share the $57,000 first-place prizes. The silver medal teams will spit $43,000.
The Rio Grand Slam is the third of five Olympic qualifying events being staged in the South American country with the final two tournaments being next week in Vitoria (March 15-20) and at Fortaleza (April 26-May 1). The Rio Grand Slam is the fourth event on the women’s FIVB World Tour calendar for the 2015-2016 season.
Competing for every point was Germany's Karla Borger as she dives for Mikasa in a match Friday on Copacabana against Americans Lauren Fendrick (blue top, No. 1) and Brooke Sweat.|