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Beach Volleyball - 16. June 2011.

Inspiring Roman pool play finalizes women’s 32 teams for single-elimination field

With round-robin pool play completed Wednesday, the world’s best female beach volleyball athletes get down to final business in the 32-team single-elimination phase of the $1 million FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Championships, powered by smart, which continues through Sunday at Rome’s historic Foro Italico sports complex.

The internationally-televised eighth FIVB Swatch World Championships started Monday with 48 teams in each gender split into 12 four-team pools with each team playing three matches within their respective pool alignments. The women completed their round robin play Wednesday and the men will on Thursday and the top two teams from each pool along with the best eight third-place teams will emerge into the 32-team single elimination phase that will ultimately crown the 2011 FIVB world champions following the medal matches on Sunday evening.

As expected in the women’s division, the top seeds won their pools as well as a few lower seeds who will all move forward into the top 12 placements in the 32-team, single-elimination bracket that will decide the 2011 FIVB Swatch World Champions. All 12 teams that won their respective pools did it with unblemished 3-0 records.

Leading the way to the final 32 are the top five seeded teams and eight of the top 11. Brazil’s top-seeded Larissa Franca/Juliana Felisberta Silva, second-seeded Brazilians Maria Antonelli/Talita Antunes, third-seeded Jennifer Kessy/April Ross of the United States, Netherland’s fourth-seeded Sanne Keizer/Marleen Van Iersel and USA’s Misty May Treanor/Kerri Walsh led the unbeatens into Thursday’s first elimination round.

The other teams from the top 11 seeds to advance as unbeaten pool winners are China’s eighth-seeded Chen Xue/Xi Zhang, Brazil’s ninth-seeded Vivian Cunha/Taiana Lima and USA’s 11th-seeded Angie Akers/Nicole Branagh.

The surprise pool winners are Italy’s 13th-seeded Greta Cicolari/Marta Menegatti, Australia’s 18th-seeded Louise Bawden/Becchara Palmer, Greece’s 19th-seeded Vasiliki Arvaniti/Maria Tsiartsiani and Russia’s 34th-seeded Ekaterina Khomyakova/Evgenia Ukolova.

Mostly sunny Roman skies bathed the Foro Italico again Wednesday as 96 two-person teams representing 34 countries have been competing on five purpose-built courts within the sprawling complex that includes the featured center court within the newly constructed 10,000-seat tennis stadium.

Juliana/Larissa will completed their pool play portion of the event Wednesday by defeating Germany’s 24th-seeded .Jana Kohler/Julia Sude, 21-15, 21-16 in 35 minutes.  In that match, Juliana had 28 attacks, 16 kills, seven digs, one block and two ace serves while Larissa contributed 16 attacks, 11 kills, 11 digs and two blocks. The Brazilians are the three-time reigning FIVB Swatch World Tour champions with a silver medal, bronze and another silver in the last three FIVB Swatch World Championships.

Defending FIVB Swatch World Champions and current FIVB Swatch World Tour point and money leaders Jennifer Kessy/April Ross of the United States are seeded third and on Wednesday defeated Switzerland’s 46th-seeded.Tonja Goricanec/Muriel Graessli in two sets, 21-13, 21-12 in 33 minutes.

Statistically for their final pool play match, Kessy had 20 attacks, 14 kills, 5 digs, two blocks and two aces while Ross had 18 attacks, 10 kills, 11 digs, and a tournament-high six aces.

“It was a tough match,” Kessy said, “but we were able to face it very well. We played against young and good players, but we took advantage of our explosive serve. Now, we must go on this path and keep our serve at a high level to reach our goal at the top of the podium again.”

USA’s three-time FIVB Swatch World Champions and two-time Olympic champions Misty May-Treanor/Kerri Walsh, seeded fifth in the tournament, earned their pool win by defeating Czech Republic’s 44th-seeded Sona Novakova/Tereza Tobiasova, 21-15, 21-19 in 33 minutes.

In their victory Wednesday, May-Treanor had 26 attacks, 15 kills, nine digs and one ace while Walsh, whose husband Casey Jennings and teammate Kevin Wong won their men’s pool, recorded 16 attacks, 13 kills, two blocks and five digs.

Continuing to thrill the partisan and vocal Italian crowd, young Italians Cicolari/Menegatti, with a host-country seed of 13th, ended their pool play on the Foro Italico center court Wednesday by defeating Great Britain’s 36th-seeded Lucy Boulton/Denise Johns, 21-17, 21-15 in 34 minutes. Continuing to develop as a team, Menegatti/Cicolari finished in second and fourth place in the last two FIVB Swatch World Tour events in Poland and Beijing.

Needing three sets to earn their third straight victory and their pool win, Greece’s Arvaniti/Tsiartsiani came from behind to beat China’s 30th-seeded Ying Huang/Yuan Yue, 16-21, 21-18 and 15-11 in 53 minutes.

“Our goal now is to go on with this success after winning in the pool,” commented Arvaniti, who has along with her teammate Tsiartsiani competed in the last four FIVB Swatch World Championships with different partners three times and finished ninth together in 2009 in Stavanger, Norway. “Still, now everything gets more difficult for everyone, including us. We must play well all games and we want to just keep going as far as we can.”

In all, teams from eight countries, including the host country, had teams win pools, and Brazil and the United States each had three pool winners. Seven of the 12 pool winners did not lose a set on the way to their three wins each.

China’s Xue/Zhang, on the other hand advanced after going three sets in all three of their pool play matches.

Brazil’s Antonelli/Antunes allowed just 64 points in 6 sets (10.7 points per set).

The previous FIVB Swatch World Championships in the current format were held in Los Angeles (1997), Marseille, France (1999), Klagenfurt, Austria (2001), Rio de Janeiro (2003), Berlin (2005), Gstaad, Switzerland (2007) and Stavanger, Norway (2009). The first FIVB World Championships were held in Brazil in 1987, prior to the start of the current format that began in 1997.

After the FIVB Swatch World Championships, the 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour takes one week off before it continues with three consecutive Grand Slam double-gender events: June 27 to July 3 in Stavanger, Norway (ConocoPhillips Grand Slam Stavanger 2011), July 4-9 in Gstaad, Switzerland (1 to 1 Energy Grand Slam) and July 11-16 in Moscow (Moscow Grand Slam). The total prize money for each Grand Slam event is $600,000. Also on the international calendar during this window and immediately following the FIVB Swatch World Championships will be the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Youth World Championships, for players under 19 years old, June 21-26 in Umag, Croatia.
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