Four more “Sweet 16” matches will be played Friday evening at the 12,200-seat Chaoyang Park Beach Volleyball Ground leading into Sunday’s “Elite Eight” quarter-finals to determine the “final four” lineup for Tuesday’s semi-finals and Thursday’s medal matches.
Friday’s first match featured reigning Olympic champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh as the second-seeded Americans extended their international winning streak to 66-straight victories with a 24-22 and 21-10 triumph in 38 minutes over 13th-seeded Liesbeth Mouha and Liesbet Van Breedam of Belgium.
With a two set win, May-Treanor and Walsh have now sweep their last 20 FIVB matches since being extended to a third-and-deciding set June 13 in Berlin by Maria Antonelli and Vanilda Leao of Brazil. Since the end of the 2006 season when the Americans won a bronze medal in Thailand, May-Treanor and Walsh have won 79 of their last 80 FIVB matches.
“It’s a great way to celebrate my birthday,” said Walsh, who turned 30 Friday. “This is just the mid-way point in the competition. We still need to win two more matches to reach the finals. But for today, I have a lot of family members here along with my husband (Casey Jennings). We’ll spend some time watching the indoor match tonight along with enjoying Beijing.”
May-Treanor added that the “competition will get harder with each match. No one has anything to lose when they play against us. We have a big target on our backs and it seems to bring out the best in those who play us. No one said it was going to be easy.’
The Americans will play again Sunday against either third-seeded Ana Paula Connelly/Larissa Franca of Brazil or eighth-seeded Stephanie Pohl/Okka Rau of Germany. With no matches against the Brazilians due to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games being their first event together, May-Treanor and Walsh have defeated Pohl and Rau 10-straight times with the last meeting being in the 2006 season opener in Modena, Italy.
Also netting a win for the United States Friday was fifth-seeded Nicole Branagh and Elaine Youngs. The Australia and Chinese winners were 10th-seeded Tamsin Barnett/Natalie Cook and Jia Tian/Jie Wang, respectively.
Branagh and Youngs advanced to a Sunday quarter-final meeting against a team from either China or Cuba with a 21-15 and 21-13 victory in 38 minutes over Dalixia Fernandez Grassett and Tamara Larrea Peraza of Cuba. While the Cubans were losing their second match to an American team, Branagh and Youngs posted their second win over a team from the Caribbean country.
Tian and Wang scored their fourth-straight Beijing 2008 Olympic Games win over 11th-seeded Nila Ann Hakedal and Ingrid Torlen of Norway with a 21-13 and 21-15 victory while Barnett and Cook out-lasted 16th-seeded Efthalia koutroumanidou and Maria Tsiartsiani of Greece 22-20, 19-21 and 15-12 in 58 minutes.
In addition to the Brazil vs. Germany matches, other Friday evening meetings has fourth-seeded Chen Xue/Xi Zhang of China playing 17th-seeded Milagros Crespo/Imara Esteves Ribalta of Cuba, sixth-seeded Talita Antunes/Renata Ribeiro of Brazil facing 12th-seeded Susanne Glesnes/kathrine Maaseide of Norway, and the 18th-seeded Schwaiger sisters (Doris and Stephanie) of Austria challenging ninth-seeded Sara Goller/Laura Ludwig of Germany.