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USA’s Kessy/Ross capture gold medal Saturday in Norway at FIVB Swatch ConocoPhillips Grand Slam Stavanger 2011
Repelling one challenger after another until the crowning moment, Jennifer Kessy and April Ross of the United States won the women’s gold medal Saturday to complete a strong run of seven consecutive victories through a talented field at the $600,000 FIVB Swatch ConocoPhillips Grand Slam Stavanger 2011.
The world’s top beach volleyball tandems are back at the majestic Vaagen Harbour venue through Sunday as the double-gender stop on the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour marks the 13th consecutive visit by the world tour with Stavanger hosting its first men’s event in 1999 and its first women’s event in 2002. It was the 10th straight season for that the women’s tour has played in Stavanger. The men’s semifinals and medal matches will close the event on Sunday.
In the gold medal match, USA’s third-seeded Kessy/Ross glided through the drizzle to methodically pull away from. Germany’s 13th-seeded Sara Goller/Laura Ludwig, winning their third gold medal in Stavanger in five years, 21-16, 21-15 in 40 minutes.
During the first set of the gold medal match, the score was tied five times with the last at 9-9 as Ross serves and Kessy blocks building the margin slowly to the final 21-16 total.
The second set started like the first with Germany getting the first point and five ties up to 5-5 when Ross served for three straight winning rallies to pull ahead 8-5. With both Kessy and Ross serving and blocking strong, they built up a 13-8 lead and with Goller kills and Ludwig digs, the Germans closed the game to three points up to 18-15 but the Americans scored the final three points to win the set and the gold medal.
For the Kessy/Ross tandem, it was their ninth career FIVB gold medal, their 25th medal and 28th final four finish out of 54 FIVB Swatch World Tour events they have played since starting international competition together. In Stavanger, their record has been even better with gold medals in 2007 and 2009 and now this year along with a bronze in 2008 and ninth in 2010. On the American 4th of July holiday in 2009, Kessy/Ross won the FIVB Swatch World Championship here on the Vaagen Harbor center court. It was the first win since the 2010 Rome Grand Slam for Kessy/Ross. Kessy/Ross now have a 10-2 FIVB career record against Goller/Ludwig.
For Germany’s Goller/Ludwig, who are still seeking their first FIVB gold medal, the silver medal was the sixth of their FIVB career along with five bronze medals and 14 total final four placements in their 73 FIVB events as a team. Their silver was the best finish in Stavanger after ninth place finishes the last three years.
“Stavanger has been a very special place for us, to say the least,” commented a happy Kessy following their gold-medal winning performance. “We worked so hard in this tournament, we wanted to come out and have fun and when we can relax we usually play better. We sided out really well and pressed the serve. April made some great plays all over the court and together we found a way to win again in Stavanger. We can’t explain it, but we now have three sets of those gorgeous Viking swords and we plan on returning for another one next year.”
The third of seven “major” tournaments on the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour schedule, the FIVB Swatch ConocoPhillips Grand Slam Stavanger 2011, the winning pairs in each gender in Stavanger will each share the $43,500 first-place prizes. Silver medalists will split $29,500 while bronze medal winners will divide $23,000 and the fourth place finishers will receive $18,400.
Playing through a steady rain during the bronze medal match, Brazil’s top-seeded Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca defeated Netherland’s sixth-seeded Sanne Keizer/Marleen Van Iersel, 21-13, 21-14 in 32 minutes. Juliana/Larissa controlled both sets to win and increase their lead in the series record with the Dutch team to 6-1.
With the victory, Juliana/Larissa earned their 13th career FIVB bronze medal and 73rd career FIVB final four finish in 90 career FIVB tournaments. Finishing this tournament with a 6-2 record, this is the first bronze and fifth medal in six Stavanger events they have played in during their partnership.
In Saturday’s women’s semifinals, played with the most constant sunshine of the week shining on the Vaagen Harbour center court, USA’s Kessy/ Ross came from behind to defeat Netherland’s Keizer/Van Iersel, 25-27, 21-11 and 15-11 in 57 and Germany’s Goller/Ludwig hung tough for a surprising win over Brazil’s Juliana/Larissa, 25-23, 21-19 in 47 minutes.
In Saturday’s first women’s semifinal, coming from behind in the tiebreaker set, down 6-9, Kessy/Ross outscored Keizer/Van Iersel 9-2 to win the match and increase their head-to-head record against to 7-3, stopping the two-match win streak that Keizer/Van Iersel had over the Americans.
In the second women’s semifinal Saturday, Germany’s Goller/Ludwig played with intense focus and few mistakes to upset Brazil’s Juliana/Larissa. Goller/Ludwig improved their series history against the new FIVB Swatch World Champions to 2-8, with the only other win coming in the fourth round of the winner’s bracket in 2010 in Brasilia. Goller/Ludwig controlled the overtime first set and came from behind in the second behind great overall team play including Goller’s serves and net play and Ludwig’s digs and passing.
Next week, the 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour continues with two more Grand Slam double-gender events: Monday through next Sunday the tour will be 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.
The 2011 calendar features 15 women's and 14 men's events, including 12 double-gender tournaments, within all five FIVB confederations plus one special 24-team single-gender women’s test event held August 9-14 at London’s Horse Guards Parade, the venue for beach volleyball at the 2012 London Olympic Games. The 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour is offering $7.64-million in prize money. Twelve of the tournaments are combined men's and women's events, including the World Championships and all six Grand Slam stops.
The FIVB Swatch ConocoPhillips Grand Slam Stavanger 2011 was the 224th women’s event and 263rd men’s event on the FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour (open, grand slam, Olympic and Goodwill). The first men’s FIVB Swatch World Tour event was played February 17-22, 1987 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the first women’s event was played August 14-16, 1992 at Almeria, Spain.
For more information on the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour or the event, please visit www.fivb.org.