Juliana/Antonelli finally take home their first gold medal as a team, beating Wang Fan and Yue Yuan from China, 2-1 (20-22, 21-17, 15-13). Despite topping the 2014 FIVB points table, a gold medal had yet eluded the Brazilian pair until their final World Tour tournament of the season.
"I cannot describe how I feel because I have worked too much to get a gold. I started the journey in Fuzhou this year and now probably finish the World Tour season and I get gold. I'm really happy because my team is getting improved and I really hope that next year I make a great season again," said Juliana.
Both Juliana and Maria Antonelli enjoyed great success with former partners and used the 2014 season to work on their new partnership with help from their coach Leticia Pessoa, who has coached the likes of Alison Cerutti and Emanuel Rego within the Brazilian team.
"This medal means that we will stay together. It's been a difficult year for me and Juliana, we changed our team and I'm very proud of my new team. They believe in us and now we have more points than all the teams of the world. Now we are the champion of the world so I'm very proud of my partner. We believe in our team and our new coach, she deserves it because she's one gold woman," said Antonelli.
Juliana/Antonelli lost four FIVB World Tour finals this year and with Wang Fan/Yue Y. fully utilising their home advantage, the Brazilian pair had to pull out all the stops to ensure it did not happen again. The Chinese pair delighted the crowd on Guanyinshan beach with some truly great rallies ending in point after point for Wang Fan/Yue Y.
But Juliana/Antonelli were never far behind and at 10-10 a couple of unforced errors by Wang Fan gave Brazil the lead for the first time. It was even all the way to 20, before two outstanding ace serves from Yue Yuan left Juliana/Antonelli motionless and the first set went to China.
The Brazilian pair knew they had to step it up and took the lead in the second 7-3 thanks to Juliana's domineering presence at the net. A number of huge slams by Antonelli helped to close the second set for Brazil.
In the tie-break, a huge rally opened the set ending in Juliana/Antonelli's favour to give that extra lick of confidence. Yue Yuan continued to power down her incredible serves at over 70kmh and edged closer to Brazil bringing the score to a level 9-9.
The pressure began to show as a stream of errors from both sides racked up the points to 14-11 to Brazil. Antonelli kept her cool at match point for a big smash and secured the gold medal for her team.
"The Chinese girls played very good and they were playing at home and all the people here shout for China. I really like to play like this. They had a good season and probably those girls are going to be getting better next season too," said Juliana.
Silver for Wang Fan/Yue Y. is their second medal in 2014 after taking silver in another Chinese tournament at the opening Grand Slam of the year in Shanghai.
"We're feeling really great because this is our last tournament this year so even though we're feeling a little disappointed that we didn't become the champion, this is like a perfect end to the season.
"We are familiar with the weather of China, the spectators are really enthusiastic and give us a lot of support so that helps us and gives us confidence," said Yue Y.
Wang Fan/Yue Y. were meeting Juliana/Antonelli for the fourth time in 2014, with the Chinese pair winning only one of the previous clashes, at Gstaad Grand Slam.
"This is the fourth time we have played the Brazilian team this year and even though we beat them once they didn't play well. To meet them again is our honour because they have a lot of experience and we can learn from them.
"We are capable and we need this kind of confidence to improve on our weaknesses and build more confidence for the future," said Wang Fan.
Wang Fan and Yue Yuan, a new pairing for 2014, just missed out on a medal losing the bronze medal match at the Berlin Grand Slam and were not ready for the same experience in Xiamen. In their semifinal against USA's Tealle Hunkus and Kendra Vanzwieten, Wang Fan/Yue Y. soon stamped their authority on the match taking the win 2-0 (21-14, 21-9).
Bronze for USA qualifiers Hunkus/Vanzwieten
The bronze medal match saw Hunkus/Vanzwieten up against Vasiliki Arvaniti and Maria Tsiartsiani from Greece. The American girls were clearly ready and a couple of huge hits by Hunkus allowed the US pair to creep ahead in the first set. Two unforced errors into the net from Greece and Arvaniti/Tsiartsiani lost confidence allowing Hunkus/Vanzwieten to take five points in a row. Another big slam from Hunkus ended the set 21-12.
The US pair gave Greece little chance to use their strength and continued to cleverly adjust their play, choosing the best strategy for each moment. Every Arvaniti/Tsiartsiani attack was met with a Hunkus block giving the Greek girls no chance to get ahead. A final Hunkus block and the bronze was USA's 2-0 (21-12, 21-15).
"I think we did a really good job once again communicating and growing as a team and every match you can feel the growth within the team and that's awesome. Especially coming off this morning when we didn't really play well so to come out this afternoon like that is awesome, it's definitely a testament to the team," said Hunkus.
"We only watched the Greek teams' match against Brazil and on one of the first days with the high wind, so it really didn't give us a good gauge. They were amazing though, they played a good side-out game, they made us work for it for sure," said Vanzwieten.
Hunkus/Vanzwieten entered the tournament with the lowest entry points of all of the four USA teams in Xiamen, but were finally the team to progress furthest. Hunkus/Vanzwieten earned a bye in the qualification round to enter directly into the main draw.
"You always hope for a medal. We were ready for a long battle because we thought we were going to have to play in the qualifier so we weren't really sure how it was going to go and this is our first FIVB together so we're here just trying to get better as a team," said Vanzwieten.
"You come you're not sure what's going to happen like Tealle said, we thought we were in the qualifier to begin with so to come away with the bronze is awesome and it's definitely momentum going into the next few weeks for sure," said Hunkus.
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