Kristiansand, Norway, August 9, 2007 -
Germany’s Stephanie Pohl and Okka Rau, who produced the Brazilians’ ninth-place finish in Stavanger six weeks ago by ousting Juliana and Larissa from the Norwegian grand slam, will challenge the South Americans Friday afternoon for a spot in the US$350,000 Otera Open women’s semi-finals after both teams posted wins here Thursday.
In a single-elimination match in Stavanger June 29, Pohl and Rau posted a 21-17 and 21-13 win over the Brazilians, the defending Norwegian grand slam champions. Since Stavanger, the top-seeded Juliana and Larissa have rebounded with a pair of wins over the Germans in the last two SWATCH-FIVB World Tour events in Switzerland and Austria.
“We did not play good in the first two grand slams in Paris and Stavanger this eyar,” said Juliana after her team’s 21-12 and 21-14 win Thursday afternoon over ninth-seeded Nila Ann Hakedal and Ingrid Torlen of Norway. “The Germans played great in Stavanger and were the much better team that day. We have won our last two meetings with Stephi and Okka, but we still are smarting from that early exit in Stavanger.”
Juliana and Larissa, who have won SWATCH gold medals this season in Poland and Portugal to increase their FIVB title total to 16 since forming their partnership at the start of the 2004 international campaign, have won eight of the 10 meetings with Pohl and Rau. Both victories helped the Brazilians to a bronze medal finish in the world championships in Gstaad and a second-place finish last week in Klagenfurt.
The fourth-seeded Germans advanced to Friday’s winner’s bracket quarter-final match with a 21-18 and 21-17 victory over 28th-seeded Liesbet Van Breedam and Liesbeth Mouha of Belgium on a Tresse city centre side court as the inaugural Otera Open is being staged in a Norwegian southern coast setting known as “the Summer City”.
Friday’s other winner’s bracket quarter-final match will be an All-Chinese affair when the top two teams on the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour compete for an Otera Open “final four” berth. Third-seeded Jia Tian and Jie Wang will play second-seeded Chinese rivals Chen Xue and Xi Zhang for the 15th-time on the international circuit since the start of the 2005 season. Tian and Wang lead the series 11-3.
Tian and Wang, who have a 720-point lead over Xue and Zhang (6,400 to 5,680) in the SWATCH standings with Juliana and Larissa third (5,520), scored a 21-19, 12-21 and 15-10 victory 27th-seeded Simone Kuhn and Lea Schwer of Switzerland Thursday. Xue and Zhang posted a 15-21, 21-16 and 15-12 win over 10th-seeded Rieke Brink-Abeler and Hella Jurich of Germany.
In addition to the four teams that dropped Thursday matches to the Brazilians, Chinese and Germans, four other tandems remain in contention for semi-final berths as each must win three elimination matches Friday to reach Saturday’s “final four” schedule where the gold medal team will share the $30,000 first-place prize.
The 10th of 13 double gender events this season on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour, the Otera Open concludes Sunday with the men’s semi-finals and medal matches. Following this week’s Otera Open, the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour remains in Europe for three more events.
An inaugural double gender event will be played on the Finnish isle of Aland next week before taking a week off. The international tour resumes for the final double gender event in Europe at St. Petersburg followed by a men’s only stop in Mazury region of Poland.