BEIJING, China (Aug. 9, 2008) – The U.S. beach volleyball team of Nicole Branagh (Orinda, Calif.) and Elaine Youngs (El Toro, Calif.), ranked fifth, won their opening match of the Olympic Games on Saturday, defeating Netherland’s 20th-seeded Rebekka Kadijk and Merel Mooren, 21-19, 27-25, at the beach volleyball venue in Chaoyang Park.
Branagh and Youngs will play their next pool-play match on Aug. 11 at 6 p.m. local time against Germany’s eighth-ranked Stephanie Pohl and Okka Rau. On Saturday, Pohl and Rau defeated Cuba’s 17th- ranked Milagros Crespo and Imara Esteves Ribalta, 21-17, 21-19 in the other Pool E match.
Youngs is playing in her third Olympic Games, having finished seventh with the U.S. women's indoor team in 1996. In 2004, Youngs won the bronze medal in beach volleyball with partner Holly McPeak. Branagh is playing in her first Olympics.
In 2004, McPeak and Youngs eliminated Pohl and Rau from the Olympic tournament in Athens.
On Saturday, Branagh and Youngs held a slim lead for most of the first set, but also struggled with errors and on serve receive. With the U.S. team leading 16-14, Mooren and Kadijk scored two straight points, including an ace, to tie the score at 16-16.
From there, the teams traded points until the score was tied at 19-19. An ace by Youngs gave them set point and Netherland’s hitting error won the set for the Americans.
It looked as if the second set would be easier as Branagh and Youngs took an 8-4 lead and extended it to 14-7.
But Kadijk and Mooren fought back and tied the score at 18-18 on Mooren’s ace.
Branagh and Youngs reached match point first at 20-19, but Branagh’s hitting error tied the score. Branagh and Youngs would reach set point four more times, but each time Netherland tied the score again.
Kadijk and Mooren reached their first set point at 25-24, but a Youngs tip tied the score again and 25-25. Branagh followed with a kill for the United States’ sixth match point at 26-25 and the match ended on Netherland’s hit out of bounds.