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Beach Volleyball - 03. August 2007.


Sara Goller of Germany

Klagenfurt, Austria, August 2, 2007


With a 21-12 and 21-16 win in 38 minutes over China’s Jia Tian and Jie Wang in the deciding Pool B match, Goller and Ludwig finished Thursday’s action with a 3-0 group mark to earn the No. 2 spot in Friday’s bracket play with a “bye” into the second-round of the 24-team single-elimination phase of the A1 Grand Slam.


The ninth of 13 double gender events this season on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour, the 11th annual A1 Grand Slam ends with the women’s semi-finals and medal matches Saturday and the men’s “final four” matches Sunday.  The final two teams in the gold medal matches will be competing for the $43,500 first-place prizes.


The top-three teams from each group advanced to Friday’s three elimination rounds with each pool winner receiving a “bye” for a guaranteed ninth-place finish.  Reigning Olympic and three-time SWATCH-FIVB World champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh of the United States will have the top spot in the elimination bracket after winning Pool A and posting a better point ratio (1.438 to 1.231) than Goller and Ludwig.


Thursday’s win for the 15th-seeded Goller and Ludwig also avenged a pool play setback to the second-seeded Chinese in last month’s Berlin grand slam where Tian and Wang posted a 32-30, 19-21 and 15-12 win in 70 minutes over the Germans in the first SWATCH meeting between the two teams.


Tian and Wang, the defending A1 Grand Slam champions after upsetting May-Treanor and Walsh in the quarterfinals and two-time SWATCH tour leaders Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca of Brazil in the gold medal match, are the current SWATCH-FIVB World Tour leaders over compatriots Xue Chen and Xi Zhang by 1,120 points (6,040 to 4,920).  Juliana and Larissa are currently third (4,500 points) in the rankings.


“We were disappointed with our play last week at the world championships,” said the 21-year old Ludwig.  “We had a tough pool in Switzerland with two other German teams in our group.  Although we finished second in our pool, we just couldn’t get anything going in the first elimination match and dropped a match to a very competitive American team (Nicole Branagh and Elaine Youngs).  We did not finish well against the Americans.”


With a “bye” in the first elimination round Friday, Goller and Ludwig will have to await the announcement of pairings for Friday’s first eight matches to learn their next opponent.  “We know we will not face a team from our pool in our first match,” said the 23-year old Goller.  “The best part is that we only have to win two matches Friday to reach the semi-finals for the third-time this season.”


Goller and Ludwig will be seeking their third “final four” appearance this season after placing second and fourth in SWATCH stops in Portugal and Norway, respectively.  The Germans are the second-ranked European team on the SWATCH circuit behind Greece’s Vassiliki Arvaniti and Vasso Karadassiou (3,080 points to 2,680).


The eighth-seeded Greeks also won their pool (H) Thursday with three wins to join other pool winners third-seeded Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca (Pool C), fourth-seeded Xue/Zhang (Pool D), fifth-seeded Branagh/Youngs (Pool E), 10th-seeded Stefanie Schwaiger/Doris Schwaiger of Austria (Pool G) and 11th-seeded Adriana Behar/Shelda Bede of Brazil (Pool F).


The A1 Grand Slam, the fourth of eight-straight SWATCH-FIVB World Tour events in Europe through the middle of September, is also part of the qualifying for the Beijing 2008 Olympics.  Following next week’s Kristiansand stop, other double gender SWATCH events will be on the Finnish isle of Aland and in St. Petersburg.  The final two women’s events in 2007 will be held in Brazil and Thailand.

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