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Beach Volleyball - 10. June 2011.

Three American pairs make women’s top 16 at Beijing Grand Slam

Two-time defending Olympic champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh of the United States rallied from Wednesday’s opening loss to win round robin group E and lead three American teams into the women’s top 16 of the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour Beijing Grand Slam.

May-Treanor/Walsh swept Spain’s 21th seeds Liliana Fernandez Steiner/Elsa Baquerizo Macmillan 21-17 and 21-14 on Thursday afternoon to share a 2-1 win-loss record with the Spaniards and compatriots Angela Akers/Nicole Branagh (12), while they placed first with better points ratio.

“We played more under control, we took care of the ball better and we didn’t panic,” said Walsh. “In the past couple of matches we were kind of looking at our opponents and trying to focus on them while I think we are trying to focus on ourselves now.”

“We are not a new team obviously, but we haven’t played together so long, so we do need to focus on ourselves in a couple of tournaments in order to know how we are doing and how to fix it and then we can start focusing on our opponents,” she added. “Our goal is to return to the no. 1 position of the world. We are getting better, we are getting our rhythm and we are trying to get back to the No. 1 team in the world this year and next year.”

Third seeded April Ross/Jennifer Kessy and 13th seeds Brooke Hanson/Lauren Fendrick of the United States joined May-Treanor/Walsh in top 16 after winning pool C and pool D with unbeaten records.

“We are getting better and better, yesterday we had a tough match against the Czechs. They played really, really well, challenged us, and I think it made us get focused again,” said Kessy after a 21-16 and 21-13 victory over 14th seeds Marta Menegatti/Greta Cicolari from Italy on Thursday afternoon. “Every team up here can win a tournament and we can’t take anyone for granted.”

“Our expectation every time is to go and play as hard as we can,” she added. “You know there are forces everywhere, so all we can do is play hard ourselves. We would love to win every tournament, but we expect ourselves to get 100 percent.”

Top seeds Juliana Felisberta Da Silva and Larissa Franca of Brazil lost to 16th seeds Simone Kuhn/Nadine Zumkehr of Switzerland 17-21, 21-15 and 15-13 in the fight for the first place of pool A while Juliana/Larissa’s countrywomen Maria Antonelli/Talita Da Rocha Antunes finished top of pool B.

Other teams making the women’s top 16 are Beijing Olympic bronze medallist Xue Chen/Zhang Xi and Germany’s seventh seeds Laura Ludwig/Sara Goller.

Fourth seeds Marleen Van Iersel and Sanne Keizer from the Netherlands, who have snatched successive gold medals in Shanghai and Myslowice, crashed out of the tournament with three straight losses in pool D.

After the conclusion of the round robin play on Thursday, top three finishers from each of the eight groups stay in contention with the second and third placers to participate in the first round of do-or-die matches Friday morning.

The Chinese capital is welcoming back international beach volleyball for the first time since the 2008 Olympic Games and the inaugural $600,000 Beijing Grand Slam is the third of 12 double-gender events on the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour, which also includes three single-gender events for women, two single-gender events for men and a special 24-team Olympic test event in London August 9-14.
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