Holtwick & Semmler on the rebound
Entering the first of three FIVB World Tour stops four weeks ago in Brazil at Maceio, Holtwick and Semmler were the No. 2 German pair on the provisional ranking list (4,050 points) for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games behind compatriots Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst (5,200) and ahead of Chantel Laboureur/Julia Sude (3,910) and Karla Borger/Britta Büthe (3,360).
• Vitória Open website
• Qualification - Men
• Qualification - Women
• Main draw - Men
• Main draw - Women
Starting this week after placing fifth at the Maceio Open and 17th at the Rio Grand Slam, Holtwick and Semmler (4,230) fell into third place behind Borger/Büthe (4,360) and just ahead of Laboureur/Sude (4,030). The big reason for the Borger and Büthe jump was that they needed the three Brazilian events to complete the requirement of playing together in at least 12 FIVB World Tour and/or recognized continental championship events.
With Borger and Büthe adding 1,240 points to their total (now 4,600), Holtwick/Semmler (240 points to 4,290) and Laboureur/Sude’s (180 points to 4,090) increases have been minimal as they have now played in 17 and 18 events, respectively, since the start of qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in January 2015.
“We knew that it would be a battle for the second Olympic spot for the German women,” said the 30-year old Semmler. “Yes, we have been up-and-down the past year. We are working hard both physically and mentally to improve our game. It is not because of effort on the court. We just have been very inconsistent. We play very well at times, but have no consistency to our game. We are feeling good physically, but we have to improve our technique and play smarter.”
Holtwick and Semmler, who placed ninth at the London 2012 Olympic Games after being eliminated by Ludwig and Sara Goller, did place fourth at the 2015 FIVB World Championships in the Netherlands after losing the bronze medal match in three sets to Juliana Felisberta and Maria Antonelli of Brazil. Semmler was named the top blocker at the World Championships
When asked about the last Olympic qualifying event on the FIVB World Tour being on German sand in Hamburg from June 7 to 11, Semmler smiled. “It would be great if the three German teams fighting for the second spot in the Olympics needed to do well in Hamburg,” Semmler noted. “Who knows what will happen between today and Hamburg. There are a lot of events left before Hamburg. All we can do is worry about our preparation and play each match as we need to win.”
First things first for Holtwick and Semmler, who are playing in their 104th FIVB World Tour event together since forming their partnership in 2006. Only four other women’s teams have played in more events together on the international circuit than Holtwick and Semmler, who are seeded 17th this week.
KEEP ON PLAYING
“Hopefully, we have three more matches this week,” said Semmler as she and Holtwick play 13th-seeded Joana Heidrich/Nadine Zumkehr of Switzerland in Saturday’s quarterfinals with the winner playing the victor from the match between second-seeded April Ross/Kerri Walsh Jennings of the United States and 10th-seeded Antonelli/Lili Maestrini of Brazil.
The other two German pairs will compete on the top-half of the bracket against teams from Brazil and Australia. The fifth-seeded Borger and Büthe will meet fourth-seeded Louise Bawden/ Taliqua Clancy of Australia while Laboureur and Sude challenge top-seeded Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca of Brazil.
Holtwick and Semmler, who advanced to the quarterfinals with two wins Friday over pairs from China and Italy, have a 5-2 edge in the FIVB series with Heidrich and Zumkehr. “The other Swiss team (Isabelle Forrer/Anouk Vergé-Dépré) eliminated us last week in Rio,” Semmler added. “We are good friends with the Swiss as we train together in the Canary Islands. It will be a tough match as they eliminated a good Brazilian team in two sets this afternoon.”
While Holtwick and Semmler were posting a 2-1 (21-19, 16-21, 15-10) win in 49 minutes over eighth-seeded Marta Menegatti and Viktoria Orsi Toth of Italy, Heidrich and Zumkehr ousted third-seeded Juliana and Taiana Lima of Brazil 2-0 (21-18, 21-18) in 40 minutes.
Antonelli and Lili advanced to the quarterfinals with a 2-0 (32-30, 21-19) win in 48 minutes over the ninth Forrer and Vergé-Dépré. Ross and Walsh Jennings gained a spot in the quarterfinals opposite the Brazilians with a 2-0 (21-17, 21-14) win in 34 minutes over 28th-seeded qualifiers Jennifer Fopma and Brittany Hochevar in an all-American affair.
Other 'Sweet 16' matches for women on Friday had Talita and Larissa ousting 19th-seeded Melissa Humana-Paredes/Taylor Pischke of Canada 2-0 (21-16, 21-12) in 29 minutes while Laboureur and Sude eliminated 24th-seeded qualifiers Natalia Dubovcova/Dominika Nestarcova of the Slovak Republic 2-1 (15-21, 21-17, 16-14) in 51 minutes. Borger and Büthe out-lasted 15th-seeded qualifiers Eduarda “Duda” Lisboa/Elize Maia of Brazil 2-1 (30-28, 17-21, 15-12) in 58 minutes and Bawden and Clancy ousted 14th-seeded Emily Day/Jennifer Kessy of the United States 2-1 (21-16, 13-21, 15-13) in 33 minutes.
With the men’s and women’s semifinals set for early evening Saturday, the medal matches for both genders will be played Sunday where the winning pairs will split the $11,000 first-place prize.
The early season FIVB World Tour swing through Brazil concludes with the Vitória Open after previous stops in Maceio (February 23-28) and on iconic Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro (March 8-13). Following the Vitória Open, the FIVB World Tour will take a two-week break before resuming action for the April 4-8 men’s-only event in Doha, Qatar. Before returning to Brazil for the Fortaleza Open at the end of April, two double-gender events will be staged in China at Xiamen (April 12-17) and Fuzhou (April 19-24).