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Big day on the sand for Sochi women's “Elite 8” contestants as Hansel & Schwaiger post upset

Stefanie Schwaiger (left) and Barbara Hansel of Austria post an upset elimination win Friday morning with a two-set win over Russian 2016 Olympic hopefuls Ekaterina Birlova and Evgeniya Ukolova.
Sochi, Russia, May 6, 2016 - For eight women’s teams competing in the second annual Sochi Open, it will be a “big” day on the sand in terms of garnering qualifying points for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Highlighted by a match between teams from Argentina and Russia, the winners of the eight matches in the second-round of elimination at the US$150,000 Sochi Open will improve their point total for the Copacabana quadrennial by reaching the quarter-finals in the 24th of 28 qualifying events for August’s Rio Summer Games.

With eight teams advancing to the second-round of elimination after winning their pools here Thursday, 16 other pairs opening played Friday morning with the losers eliminated and placing 17th and the victors moving on to the Sochi “Sweet 16” with a chance to earn a spot in Saturday’s quarter-final schedule.

The anticipated Olympic-impact match-up between eighth-seeded Ekaterina Birlova/Evgeniya Ukolova of Russia and fifth-seeded Ana Gallay/Georgina Klug of Argentina failed to materialize after the host country pair were eliminated by 15th-seeded qualifiers Barbara Hansel/Stefanie Schwaiger of Austria 2-0 (21-18, 21-17) in 43 minutes,.  The two teams are currently in a fight for the 15th and final spot on the FIVB World Tour‘s provisional qualifying list for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Gallay and Klug are No. 15 on the list with 3,930 points for their best 12 finishes since the start of Rio qualifying in April 2015.  If Birlova and Ukolova, who are No. 16 with 3,830 points, had defeated the Austrians, a win over the Argentineans would have given the Russians 60 more points to cut the deficit for 100 to 40 points

The two teams have meet twice on the FIVB World Tour with both matches being played in Xiamen, China.  Gallay and Klug have won both contests, including a 2-0 (21-16, 22-20) victory in 38 minutes three weeks ago (April 15) in an elimination first-round match.  In Xiamen last September 26, the Argentineans posted a 2-0 (22-20, 29-27) quarter-final win in 49 minutes.

But instead, the Russians will be watching from the grandstand disappointed with their 17th-place finish while Gallay and Klug can improve their total by 50 points by winning their next match versus the Austrians.  The two teams are meeting for the first time in nearly a year with Gallay and Klug winning both of their previous two matches with Hansel and Schwaiger, including a 2-0 (27-25, 21-16) pool play victory in 43 minutes on May 15, 2015 in Prague, Czech Republic.

The winner of the Argentina/Austria match will play the victors from the elimination second-round match between fourth-seeded Joana Heidrich/Nadine Zumkehr of Switzerland and 16th-seeded Fan Wang/Yuan Yue of China.  Here are the other match ups for the second-round of elimination Friday with the winners advancing to Saturday’s quarterfinals (Sochi seeding).

Karla Borger/Britta Buthe, Germany (1) vs. Monika Brzostek/Kinga Kolosinska, Poland (2)
Elsa Baquerizo/Liliana Fernandez, Spain (6) vs. Alexandra Jupiter/Laura Longuet, France (23)
Vasiliki Arvaniti/Penny Karagkouni ,Greece (24, Q2) vs. Nina Betschart/Tanja Huberli, Switzerland (21)
Marta Menegatti/Viktoria Orsi Toth, Italy (3) vs. Anastasia Barsuk/Alexandra Moiseeva, Russia (26)
Emily Day/Jennifer Kessy United States (10) vs. Katrin Holtwick/Ilka Semmler, Germany (9)
Jennifer Fopma/Brittany Hochevar, United States (18) vs. Chantal Laboureur/Julia Sude, Germany (11)


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