Antalya, Turkey, May 15, 2015 - While the Finnish women’s team of Taru Lahti and Riikka Lehtonen were making news as first-time FIVB World Tour medal winners for their northern European country on the FIVB World Tour, Georgios Kotsilianos and Nikos Zoupanis from southern Europe were quietly accomplishing something for the first-time for Greece.
Before and after Lahti and Lehtonen had captured a silver medal in the women’s US$150,000 Antalya Open competition, Kotsilianos and Zoupanis were winning matches over pairs from Canada and Germany to become the first Greek men’s team to advance to a FIVB World Tour semi-final since the start of internationally-sanctioned Beach Volleyball competition in 1987.
TOP GREEK MEN'S TEAM EVER
The most successful men’s Beach Volleyball pair from Greece on the FIVB World Tour, Kotsilianos and Zoupanis had previously posted their country’s best finishes at international circuit stops in China (twice at Xiamen 2013 and 2014) and South Africa (Mangaung 2014). The Antalya Open is the 37th FIVB event for the Greeks, who are only playing in their 11th world tour Main Draw.
Saturday’s second win for the 25th-seeded Kotsilianos and Zoupanis was their first two-set victory of the competition after the Greeks had played five-straight three-set matches in the Antalya Open highlighted by two upset wins Thursday in pool play over higher-seeded pairs from Turkey and Germany.
However, the Greeks had to work in “overtime” in both sets to advance to the Antalya Open “final four” with a 24-20, 24-22 win in 42 minutes over ninth-seeded Jonathan Erdmann of Kay Matysik of Germany. Earlier Saturday, Kotsilianos and Zoupanis had posted a 2-1 (16-21, 21-16, 16-14) victory in 51 minutes over 10th-seeded Josh Binstock and Sam Schachter of Canada.
Markus Bockermann and Lars Fluggen, one of Kotsilianos and Zoupanis’ victims in pool play Thursday, will get a rematch with the Greeks in the first-semi-final match as the German pair had to win three elimination matches Saturday to advance to Sunday’s schedule where pairs from Latvia and Poland will also meet for a berth in the afternoon’s Antalya Open gold medal match.
Markus Bockermann and Lars Fluggen
After winning only one of three Pool H matches, Bockermann and Fluggen had to win three elimination matches to reach the semi-finals in their first FIVB World Tour event in a month. When Fluggen injured his left knee in a Qatar Open semi-final match in Doha, the German pair missed playing together in the next four world tour stops in China (Xiamen and Fuzhou), Brazil (Fortaleza) and Russia (Sochi).
The Germans opened play Saturday with a 2-0 (21-16, 21-18) win in 37 minutes over 12th-seeded Isaac Kapa/Christopher McHugh of Australia before eliminating third-seeded John Hyden/Tri Bourne of the United States 2-1 (21-19, 16-21, 15-11) in 50 minutes. Bockermann and Fluggen ended their day with ousting top-seeded Reinder Nummerdor/Christiaan Varenhorst of The Netherlands 2-0 (21-16, 21-19) in a 34-minute quarter-final match.
Saturday’s effort lifted Bockermann and Fluggen into their seventh FIVB World Tour “final four” in 19 starts together on the international circuit. Despite missing the last four FIVB events together, the Germans are fifth on the 2015-2016 FIVB World Tour ranking list with a gold medal finish last November at the first of two Qatar Opens this season.
Sunday’s other “final four” participants will be fourth-seeded Aleksandrs Samoilovs/Janis Smedins of Latvia and sixth-seeded Grzegorz Fijalek/Mariusz Prudel of Poland. The two teams will be meeting for the fifth-time on the FIVB World Tour with the Latvians winning three of the four previous matches.
Samoilovs and Smedins defeated two teams from Poland Saturday to reach their 17th FIVB World Tour semi-final in 40 events together. After scoring a 2-0 (21-18, 21-16) win in 33 minutes over 14th-seeded Michal Kadziola/Jakub Szalankiewicz, the Latvians bested 26th-seeded qualifiers Michal Bryl/Kacper Kujawiak 2-1 (21-15, 23-25, 15-9) in a 47-minute quarter-final match.
To reach their 16th FIVB World Tour “final four” in 77 events together, Fijalek and Prudel posted elimination wins Saturday over 14th-seeded Grant O’Gorman/Sam Pedlow of Canada 2-0 (21-12, 21-18) in 35 minutes and second-seeded Alexander Brouwer/Robert Meeuwsen of The Netherlands 2-0 (22-20, 21-17) in 42 minutes.
Sunday’s gold medal team will share the $11,000 first-place in the 13th of 23 men’s events on the 2015-2016 FIVB World Tour calendar. The United States will host the next stop on the international circuit starting Tuesday in Cincinnati, Ohio. After the second of four stops in North America this season, the FIVB World Tour returns to Europe for the Moscow Grand Slam in Russia (May 24-29) and the Hamburg Major (June 7-12) followed by stops in Poland (June 14-19), Croatia (June 28-July 3), Switzerland (July 5-10) and Austria (July 26-31) before halting for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (August 6-18).