Brazilian & American pairs headline Moscow women’s “elite 8”

Moscow, Russia, May 27, 2016 - Two top-seeded pairs with Moscow Grand Slam gold medals to their credit lead eight women’s teams into the quarter-finals of this week’s FIVB World Tour stop in the Russian capital after winning “Sweet 16” matches here Friday afternoon at the Vodny Stadium Beach Sports Centre.

Second-seeded Talita Antunes/Larissa Franca of Brazil and third-seeded April Ross/Kerri Walsh Jennings posted elimination wins over pairs from Australia and Russia, respectively, to gain quarter-final berths along with six other teams in the next-to-last qualifying event on the FIVB World Tour for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Talita and Larissa, who captured the top Moscow podium spot in the 2015 events, advanced to Saturday’s schedule with a 2-0 (21-15, 21-15) win in 32 minutes over ninth-seeded Louise Bawden/Taliqua Clancy of Australia.  It was the Brazilians fourth-straight international win over Bawden and Clancy with two of the victories in semi-finals contests last season in the United States (Long Beach) and earlier this year in Maceio, Brazil.

Winners of the 2014 Moscow Grand Slam, Ross and Walsh Jennings ousted 29th-seeded Yulia Abalakina/Ekaterina Syrtseva of Russia 2-1 (21-14, 21-13) in 31 minutes.  It was the first FIVB meeting between the two teams as Abalakina and Syrtseva denied an All-American “Sweet 16” match Friday afternoon by eliminating 22nd-seeded Emily Day and Jennifer Kessy of the United States 2-1 (21-14, 18-21, 15-13) in a 51-minute morning match.

As two of the favorites to win medals at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the two pairs will face stiff challenges Saturday in the quarter-finals.  Talita and Larissa will meet 10th-seeded Karla Borger and Britta Buthe of Germany and Ross and Walsh Jennings will face 19th-seeded qualifiers Eduarda “Duda” Lisboa/Elize Maia of Brazil.

The Brazil-Germany FIVB series is tied 1-1 as Borger and Buthe upset Talita and Larissa at the end of February in Brazil with a 2-1 (23-21, 15-21, 15-11) elimination win in 47 minutes at Maceio.  Ross and Walsh Jennings are 2-0 against Duda and Eliza Maia, including a hard-fought 2-1 win (18-21, 21-17, 16-14) pool play win Wednesday in 49 minutes.

“We are looking forward to playing the Americans again,” said the 31-year old Eliza Maia, after her team’s 2-0 (21-19, 21-17) win in 33 minutes over eighth-seeded Ekaterina Birlova/Evgeniya Ukolova of Russia.  “April and Kerri are very experienced and you need to stay focused when playing all the top teams.  We made some mistakes at the end of our match Wednesday against the Americans.”

Borger and Buthe advanced to their 21st FIVB World Tour quarter-final in 59 starts by eliminated 21st-seeded Linline Matauatu/Miller Pata of Vanuatu 2-0 (21-14, 21-17) in 35 minutes.  Earlier Friday, Matauatu and Pata ousted 18th-seeded Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler of Germany 2-0 (21-14, 21-19) in 33 minutes.  Holtwick and Semmler are vying with Borger and Buthe for the second Olympic berth for Germany in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

With top-seeded and reigning FIVB world champions Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas of Brazil being eliminated in the morning Round of 24 matches by 26th-seeded qualifier Barbora Hermannova/Marketa Slukova of the Czech Republic (2-1 - 21-14, 13-21, 17-15 - 47 minutes), the afternoon’s biggest upset was posted by 11th-seeded Monika Brzostek/Kinga Kolosinska of Poland.

After ousting 28th-seeded qualifiers Lane Carico/Summer Ross of the United States 2-0 (21-17, 21-17) in a 32-minute Round of 24 match, Brzostek and Kolosinska scored a 2-1 (21-15, 16-21, 15-8) “Sweet 16” win in 46 minutes over fourth-seeded Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst of Germany, the reigning European champions.  The victory was the Poles first in three FIVB matches with Ludwig and Walkenhorst.

Other “Sweet 16” winners Friday afternoon were fifth-seeded Heather Bansley/Sarah Pavan of Canada defeating seventh-seeded Madelein Meppelink/Marleen Van Iersel of The Netherlands 2-1 (19-21, 21-12, 15-8) in 46 minutes, sixth-seeded Juliana Felisberta/Taiana Lima of Brazil beating Hermannova/Slukova 2-1 (21-18, 19-21, 15-13) in 53 minutes and 16th-seeded Joana Heidrich/Nadine Zumkehr of Switzerland ousting 26th-seeded qualifiers Taru Lahti/Riikka Lehtonen of Finland 2-1 (21-14, 16-21, 16-14) in 46 minutes.

Bansley and Pavan will play the Poles in the quarter-finals with the winner meeting the victors from the Talita/Larissa vs. Borger/Buthe match in the semi-finals.  Juliana/Lima will play Heidrich/Zumkehr in the last quarter-final match with the winner meeting either Ross/Walsh Jennings or Duda/Eliza Maia in the semi-finals.

Friday’s schedule for both genders featured the Rounds of 24 and 16 contests to set the lineup for Saturday’s morning quarter-final matches that will produce the lineup for the afternoon’s semi-finals.  The medal matches for the Moscow Grand Slam will be played Sunday afternoon with the gold medal teams sharing the $57,000 first-places prizes.


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