Olsztyn, Poland, June 18, 2016 - It will be the “old and young” of Brazilian Beach Volleyball against the experienced Americans and Latvians here Sunday in the “final four” of the US$800,000 Olsztyn Grand Slam as reigning FIVB world champions and defending Crooked Lake gold medalists Alison Cerutti and Bruno Oscar Schmidt are the team to beat.
Alison and Bruno are joined by 22-year old Brazilian compatriots Saymon Barbosa/Gustavo “Guto” Carvalhaes in the semi-finals along with Americans Jake Gibb/Casey Patterson and Latvians Aleksandrs Samoilovs/Janis Smedins as the four teams combined to win 10 matches during the three rounds of elimination in the second annual Olsztyn Grand Slam.
The sixth-seeded Samoilovs/Smedins will be challenged by the 14th-seeded qualifiers Saymon/Guto in the first semi-final as the two teams have met once on the FIVB World Tour with the Latvians defeating the young Brazilians in the semi-finals of the Rio Open last September on Copacabana.
The second semi-final will be a rematch of last year’s Olsztyn Grand Slam finale where Alison and Bruno posted a 2-0 (21-10, 21-15) gold medal win in 34 minutes over Gibb and Patterson. The Brazilian hold a 5-0 edge in the FIVB series including a quarter-final win at the 2015 FIVB World Championships in The Hague where Alison and Bruno collected the gold medal on July 5.
While the second-seeded Alison/Bruno and third-seeded Gibb/Patterson benefitted from winning their pools Friday to play only two elimination matches Saturday, Samoilovs/Smedins and Saymon/Guto had to win three matches each to advance to Sunday’s “final four” matches where the winning team will share the $57,000 first-place prize.
After defeating top-seeded Piotr Kantor/Bartosz Losiak of Poland 2-0 (30-28, 21-17) in 42 minutes to open play, Alison and Bruno advanced to their 17th FIVB World Tour semi-final in 27 international starts together with a 2-0 (21-19, 21-16) quarter-final win in 35 minutes over fifth-seeded Ben Saxton/Chaim Schalk of Canada.
Gibb and Patterson started play Saturday with 2-0 (21-17, 21-19) win in 34 minutes over 16th-seeded Martins Plavins/Haralds Regza of Latvia followed by a 2-0 (21-19, 21-15) quarter-final win in 34 minutes over American compatriots Tri Bourne/John Hyden.
Playing all three of their matches Saturday on the center court with an estimated 300 Latvians followers in the stands, Samoilovs and Smedins scored wins over 19th-seeded qualifiers Andre Loyola/Ricardo Santos of Brazil 2-0 (21-19, 21-16) in 32 minutes, fourth-seeded Adrian Gavira/Pablo Herrera of Spain 2-1 (19-21, 21-17, 15-13) in 47 minutes and 12th-seeded Vitor Felipe/Alvaro Filho of Brazil 2-1 (21-23, 21-16, 15-12) in 53 minutes.
“It is great to have our fans here,” said Smedins after the match. “It really helps knowing that those fans are here to motivate you and keep you focused on the match. Some of these fans were with us last week in Hamburg. We had three very tough matches today and I think our fans out-cheered the Polish fans. It is a great following for all Latvian teams.”
Saymon and Guto, who defeated a team from Latvia in Wednesday’s qualifier that featured Smedins’ brother (Toms), posted wins Saturday over 27th-seeded qualifiers Ruslan Bykanov/Yaroslav Koshkarev of Russia 2-0 (21-17, 21-19) in 33 minutes, 17th-seeded Grant O'Gorman/Sam Pedlow of Canada 2-0 (21-12, 21-16) in 32 minutes and seventh-seeded Brazilian compatriots Evandro Goncalves/Pedro Solberg of Brazil 2-0 (22-20, 21-19) in 36 minutes.
"We are very happy, because this is our first semifinal in a grand slam,” said Guto, who teamed with Saymon to win the United States Open in Cincinnati at this time last month. “I don't know what to say. Saymon played excellent and I want to congratulate Pedro and Evandro for the game. And I will see you tomorrow."
The fourth of nine “big” events on the 2015-2016 FIVB World Tour calendar, the Olsztyn Grand Slam featured the women’s medal matches Saturday where Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst captured the gold medal with a 2-1 (21-18, 15-21, 15-10) win in 41 minutes over Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca of Brazil. Natalia Dubovcova and Dominika Nestarcova of the Slovak Republic netted the bronze medal with a 2-0 (22-20, 21-14) victory in 36 minutes over Eduarda “Duda” Lisboa and Elize Maia of Brazil.