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Beach Volleyball - 10. May 2010.

USA’s capture’s women’s gold, Brazil silver and bronze at Shanghai Open


USA's Jennifer Kessy, right, pokes the Mikasa over Brazil's Juliana Felisberta Silva during USA's three-set gold medal match win Sunday at the Shanghai Open. Kessy's partner is April Ross and Juliana's teammate is Larissa Franca.

Shanghai, China, May 9, 2010 - USA picked up the gold medal at the end of a week-long celebration of international Beach Volleyball on Sunday, with teams from Brazil winning the silver and bronze medals in the women’s competition at the $US380,000 Shanghai Open presented by City Beach. 

The Chinese port city has played host to the international Beach Volleyball event since last Monday in the Jinshan District for the seventh-straight year, the second event of the 2010 SWATCH FIVB World Tour, the Shanghai Open is the second of 12 double-gender stops on the 2010 SWATCH FIVB World Tour calendar

In the international-televised Shanghai Open gold medal finale, the U.S's third-seeded April Ross and Jennifer Kessy came from behind to defeat Brazil’s top-seeded  Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca in three sets, 15-21, 21-16 and 15-12 in a 56-minute championship match

It was the seventh career FIVB gold medal for Ross and Kessy, the reigning FIVB World Champions. In 35 FIVB international tournaments together, the Americans now have 16 podium finishes. Meanwhile, Juliana and Larissa have now earned 58 podium finishes in 75 tournaments. In FIVB gold medal matches between the two countries the USA’s victory in Shanghai widened the gap with the USA now holding a 45-34 edge.

Ross and Kessy, who improved their record against Juliana and Larissa to 4-9 on the SWATCH FIVB World Tour, earned their first win against their Brazilian rivals since the Americans beat them last July 4th to capture the gold medal at the 2009 FIVB World Championship in Stavanger, Norway, 30-28 and 23-21.

Ross and Kessy, who were undefeated in the tournament with six straight wins, will share the $30,000 first-place prizes while Juliana and Larissa finished with a 5-1 record in Shanghai, will split a $21,000 purse in addition to their silver medals.

Juliana and Larissa stormed to a 15-9 lead before picking up the first set 21-15 in the final. Ross and Kessy fought back in the second set and, after tying for the first five points, the Americans moved ahead 11-7 before then holding on to the end of the second set. The final set was reminiscent of last year’s extremely tight match at the SWATCH FIVB World Championships in Norway, with seven ties up to 10-10 when Ross and Kessy made some key serves work and pulled off some strong kills to take the score to 12-10. However Juliana closed it to 12-13 on a kill of her own, but the American's won the final two points for the title after a pair of Kessy blocks.

In the bronze medal match just prior to the championship finale, Brazil’s second-seeded Maria Antonelli and Talita Antunes defeated USA’s sixth-seeded Nicole Branagh and Misty May-Treanor, 21-19, 17-21 and 15-11 in a 51-minute medal match. It was just the first SWATCH FIVB World Tour meeting between these two teams as May-Treanor, the two-time Olympic gold medalist, has just started here first season with Branagh as her partner. While the winning team was in control in the first two sets, Antonelli and Antunes, the defending Shanghai Open champions, started out on top 3-0 and held the lead, although Branagh and May did close the gap at 8-6 and 10-8, before the Brazilian’s balanced attacked finally overcame the Americans.

For winning the bronze medal, Antonelli and Antunes, who had a 5-2 record in the tournament, will split the $15,000 third place prize while Branagh and May-Treanor, who had a 5-2 record in the tournament, earned a split of $11,200 for their fourth place placement.  It was the 11th career podium finish in 17 events for the Brazilians.

“Juliana and Larissa came out strong in the first set, but we kept our composure and didn’t really change anything other than just keep working hard and not be conservative,” said Kessy at the post match press conference. “We were playing a great team and we knew we had to just attack, attack and attack and it worked for us today.  It’s a long season and I am sure we will play them many more times, but today was definitely our day.  We were disappointed with our fourth place in Brazil so we were determined to work even harder at this tournament and not let up in our concentration.  Our new offense seems to be working better and better each match we play and it will give us a lot of confidence heading to the next FIVB event in Rome know we are heading the right direction. Tonight we’re going to the World Expo in Shanghai.”

Juliana and Larissa defeated defending Shanghia Open champions and fellow Brazilians Antonelli and Talita, 21-14 and 21-11 in 36 minutes in the semifinal matches earlier on Sunday whilst Kessy and Ross defeated Branagh and May-Treanor, 21-18 and 21-11 in 39 minutes. Juliana and Larissa now have a 7-1 FIVB career record against Antonelli and Talita while the two American teams have met only twice internationally, with Ross and Kessy defeating their compatriots as well in the third round of the winner’s bracket on Friday here in Shanghai.

With their semifinal win, Juliana and Larissa became the fourth team in SWATCH FIVB World Tour history to post 400 match wins. The only female team with more is the retired Brazilian pair Shelda Bede and Adriana Behar who have an FIVB high 578 career international victories.

After the Shanghai stop, the 2010 SWATCH FIVB World Tour calendar continues with a double gender event in Rome (May 17-23) for the season’s first Grand Slam event.  Seoul (women) and Myslowice (men) host single-gender events from May 25-30.  After a week break, Moscow hosts the second Grand Slam event on the 2010 SWATCH FIVB World Tour June 7-14.

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