German qualifiers Isabel Schneider and Teresa Mersmann claimed their fourth win in a row here Friday morning to secure a berth in the women’s top 16 of the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Xiamen Open.
The 22nd seeded Schneider/Mersmann, who had won a qualification match on Wednesday before pulling out two upset wins over sixth seeds Ana Gallay/Georgina Klug of Argentina and 11th seeds Katrin Holtwick/Ilka Semmler of Germany in the Main Draw competitions on Thursday, rallied past American duo Carico Lane/Ross Summer 2-1 (14-21, 21-18, 15-9) to earn the top place in pool F and a bye in the first round eliminations.
Schneider/Mersmann seemed to be nervous at the beginning of the last-round round robin match Friday morning, but they soon recovered to take control in the next two sets.
“At the beginning of the first set, everybody saw that we were nervous, it’s not the beginning we want to have. It’s a new role that you beat two top teams in the pool and now to be in the favorite role, but we are happy about every experience we had, so I am glad,” said Mersmann.
“I think we can play very good beach volleyball, but we have to stay calm, just focus on our own and we try to do it here. When we play our best beach volleyball, as I said a few days ago, then we can beat a lot of teams. Definitely, we have to focus on ourselves.”
Xiamen seems to be a lucky city for Schneider/Mersmann, who has finished atop of pool in the Xiamen Open for the second time in two years.
“We finished top of pool last year in Xiamen too, we play good here,” Schneider said. “It was fun to play. We started from the qualification. This is our first tournament and we are really happy that the season starts now and we can show a bit of what we practiced in the winter.”
“We are happy that we’ll have a free afternoon, we’ll enjoy this and we hope to play our best tomorrow again,” she added.
After winning four matches in a row in three days, Schneider/Mersmann vowed to play their best for the rest of the tournament.
“We are never satisfied. I think we always want to develop, make progress. We are not satisfied with any game because there are always things to improve. So after every game we want to know what we can do better, what to improve. But I am happy the season starts and we have together big fun. It’s our fourth season now, we become more and more a team every year and had a lot of experience together and now I’m glad that we play our best here and do so well.”
Top seeds Kerri Walsh and April Ross of the United States, second seeds Karla Borger/Britta Büthe of Germany, fifth seeds Isabelle Forrer/Anouk Vergé-Dépré and seventh seeds Joana Heidrich/Nadine Zumkehr from Switzerland also won respective pools with three straight wins.
Walsh/Ross, who had finished first and second in the Rio Grand Slam and Vitoria Open in Brazil at the start of the season, eased past China’s Wang Fan/Yue Yuan 2-0 (21-12, 21-15) to lead five unbeaten teams at the end of pool play.
“I am very happy with the last match. That Chinese team is very, very good, we have trained against them a lot in the pre-season, so we are very familiar. We are very happy how we executed, I felt our rhythm was very good today,” Walsh said. “We know why we are here, we are here to win! We are here to play very good volleyball! This is a very good tournament and we want to play good volleyball as we continue.”
Home medal hopefuls Xue Chen/Xia Xinyi suffered their first loss at the Xiamen Open against Americans Emily Day/Jennifer Kessy 2-0 (21-13, 21-19) in the last round pool play, but they recovered soon enough to beat Greece’s Panagiota Karagkouni/Vasiliki Arvaniti in straight sets (21-19, 21-19) in the first round of the knock out stage Friday afternoon for a spot in the top 16.
“We were tested mentally after losing the last pool match and we did not have much time to warm up for the second match because of the big rain. Fortunately we passed the test and my partner made quick adjustment in the second match,” Xue said.
“We had very good experience today. The more difficulties we went through, the better we could be in the future,” the 19-year-old Xia echoed. “We want to improve our game through the competitions and get better as a team.”
The $150,000 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Xiamen Open will continue on Saturday with the men’s semifinals and finals as well as the women’s second and third round elimination matches.