St. Petersburg, Russia, August 30, 2007 -
With a 21-15 and 21-18 win in 39 minutes over second-seeded Talita Antunes and Renata Ribeiro, third-seeded Nicole Branagh and Elaine Youngs advanced to their first SWATCH semi-final this season and second since forming their partnership at the end of the 2006 season.
While Branagh and Youngs were played Renata and Talita, American compatriots and fourth-seeded Jen Boss and April Ross scored a 21-17 and 21-17 win in 46 minutes over top-seeded Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca to earn their second FIVB “final four” appearance this season with the first being a gold medal effort at the start of July in Stavanger, Norway.
Both wins helped each team’s Olympic hopes as the third annual St. Petersburg Open is part of the qualifying process for the Beijing Summer Games. The 24-team Beach Volleyball field for both men and women will be determined July 21, 2008 as each country, including host China, can qualify a maximum of two teams for next August’s event.
“Our goal was to reach the semi-finals this week,” said Branagh, who saw her team post three fifths and two ninths earlier this season on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour. “Now, our goal is to stay ahead of Jen and April and reach the top spot on the podium. We have been disappointed with our international play so far this season, so today’s success is very satisfying.”
Branagh and Youngs, who have now compiled 2,620 Olympic qualifying points as compared to Boss and Ross’ 2,060 points for five-plus events, opened play Thursday by defeating sixth-seeded and American rivals Tyra Turner and Rachel Wacholder 23-25, 21-18 and 15-9 win in 70 minutes.
Turner and Wacholder also dropped their next match to eighth-seeded Nila Ann Hakedal and Ingrid Torlen of Norway 22-20, 17-21 and 15-11 to finish the St. Petersburg Open in ninth-place with 1,784 Olympic qualifying points for six events. To earn a spot on the Beijing 2008 provisional list, an American team must compete in a minimum of eight SWATCH-FIVB World Tour events through next July.
Boss and Ross, who posted the biggest women’s SWATCH upset in a gold medal match history as the 29th-seeded team in Norway, started Thursday’s action with a 21-19 and 21-13 win over Vassiliki Arvaniti and Vasso Karadassiou of Greece, who captured the European championships last week in Spain.
Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, the three-time SWATCH-FIVB World champions and reigning Olympic gold medal winners, currently lead the American hopes for Beijing with 4,640 FIVB qualifying points. May-Trearnor and Walsh have five gold medal finishes this season in six events.
The teams of Juliana/Larissa and Renata/Talita will have another opportunity to reach Saturday’s semi-finals via the elimination bracket. Renata and Talita, who celebrated her 25th birthday Wednesday, play the winner of the match between Arvaniti/Karadassiou and ninth-seeded Alexandra Shiryaeva/Natalya Uryadova of Russia for a “final four” berth opposite of Boss and Ross.
Juliana and Larissa, the SWATCH tour leader the past two seasons with four gold medal finishes this summer, will face the winner of Friday’s opening elimination match between Hakedal/Torlen and seventh-seeded Adriana Behar/Ana Paula Connelly of Brazil. The survivor will played Branagh and Youngs in the semi-finals.
photos Janos Schmidt