ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA, March 29, 2008 - With their semi-final win here Saturday afternoon over Americans Nicole Branagh and Elaine Youngs, top-seeded Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca put Beach Volleyball power Brazil in position to sweep the women’s podium at the US$350,000 Adelaide Australia Open.
In winning their fifth-straight international Beach Volleyball match this week to increase their overall victory string to 25 this season, Juliana and Larissa used their 21-17 and 21-14 in 43 minutes over the fourth-seeded Branagh and Youngs to advance to their SWATCH-FIVB World Tour 33rd gold medal match where the Brazilians have won 19 times.
The win also guaranteed the South American country the top two spots on the inaugural Adelaide Australia Open podium as Saturday’s second semi-final was an All-Brazilian affair as fifth-seeded Talita Antunes and Renata Ribeiro scored a 25-23 and 22-20 in 48 minutes over 11th-seeded Shelda Bede/Ana Paula Connelly.
With Talita and Renata’s 21-19 and 21-17 elimination victory Saturday morning over second-seeded Jia Tian and Jie Wang of China, Brazil has now advanced three women’s teams to the semi-finals 31 times. A podium sweep by the South Americans would be No. 16 for the Brazilian women as the Adelaide Australia Open is the 167th women’s stop on the FIVB tour that started in 1992.
“We feel that it is very important for us to start the season very strong to establish our game both domestically and internationally,” said the 24-year old Juliana. “We did not play that well Friday in winning both of our matches in three-set so we wanted to come out firing today.”
With their third-straight win in as many matches against Branagh and Youngs, Juliana and Larissa assure their country a 35th All-Brazilian women’s gold medal match on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour. Each of Juliana and Larissa’s wins over the Americans has come in a SWATCH semi-final.
“We have an advantage over the teams that we have played four domestic events this season,” Juliana added. “Beach Volleyball is very big in our country. It is especially important this season with the Olympics in August. We look forward to Beijing, but we still have four more months to prepare.”
Juliana and Larissa are currently tied for the No. 2 spot on the Beijing 2008 Olympic qualifying list with Jia Tian and Jie Wang of China as both teams have 5,200 points for their best eight finishes on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour since the start of the process last May. A win tomorrow will give the Brazilians 40 more points to break the tie as qualifying for the Summer Games in the Chinese capital continues through July 20.
Talita and Renata, who dropped a 10-21, 21-16 and 15-8 decision to Juliana and Larissa Friday in 62 minutes, will be competing in their ninth SWATCH-FIVB World Tour gold medal match with four titles to their credit. Against their Brazilian rivals, Talita and Renata have a 3-20 mark as Juliana and Larissa have won three of the four gold medal meetings between the two teams.
Despite losing to the Brazilians, Branagh and Youngs strengthen their hold on the No. 6 qualifying spot on the Beijing list with 3,800 points to increase their lead over seventh-ranked Sara Goller and Laura Ludwig of Germany (3,530 point). A bronze medal win Saturday would improve the Americans total by 60 more points.
Picture by Alex Broadway/SWpix.com