Porec, Croatia, July 1, 2016 - For the second-straight year in this Croatian coastal resort town, Canadians Heather Bansley and Sarah Pavan have recovered from pool play losses to advance to the “semi-finals” of the Porec Major with a goal this time is to win gold after claiming a silver at the 2015 SWATCH Major Series event.
Seeded fourth in this week’s FIVB World Tour stop, Bansley and Pavan lost their final pool play match Thursday to an Italian pair and averted a “monumental: collapse in their quarter-final match here Friday afternoon to defeat 21st-seeded qualifiers Fernanda Alves and Josemari Alves (no relation) of Brazil 2-1 (21-15, 20-22, 15-12) in the 49 minutes.
Bansley and Pavan, who captured the silver medal at the 2015 Porec Major after losing the finale to Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca in three sets, had a “meltdown” on the hot center court sand by being out-scored by the Brazilians 19-7 during one stretch in the match.
Leading 14-8 in the second set, Fernanda and Josemari rallied to score 14 of the final 19 points in the second set. The Brazilians started strong in the deciding set with a 5-1 lead before Bansley called a time out. The Canadians caught fire and tied the set at 6-6 before regaining control of the match by breaking away from an 11-11 tie to score four the last five points.
“Frustrating,” was the first word out of the 28-year old Bansley’s mouth when being interviewed after the match. “We wanted to win in two sets, but the Brazilians fought hard and we gave them the second set. They started strong in the third set and the time out at 1-5 helped us a lot. Again, it was a frustrating match for us, but we won.”
In becoming the first Canadian women’s team to advance to the semi-finals in back-to-back years at the same site, Bansley and Pavan will play in the Porec Major “final four” with three German pairs with their first match Saturday morning against second-seed Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst.
With Germany having three teams in either a men’s or women’s “final four” for the first-time since the start of international competition in 1987, the other semi-final will feature 10th-seeded Karla Borger/Britta Buthe against 19th-seeded qualifiers Chantal Laboureur/Julia Sude.
Bansley and Pavan lead the FIVB World Tour series with Ludwig and Walkenhorst 3-1, including a 2-1 (17-21, 21-14, 15-12) first-round elimination victory in 51 minutes at the 2015 Porec Open. The Canadians also won a three-set last July at the Yokohama Grand Slam in Japan.
Borger and Buthe, who will be playing in the Rio 2016 Olympics Games along with Ludwig and Walkenhorst, advanced to the semi-finals with by defeating 13th-seeded Marta Menegatti/Viktoria Orsi Toth of Italy 2-0 (23-21, 21-12) win in 38 minutes. The Italians, who defeated Bansley and Pavan in pool play Thursday, eliminated Talita and Larissa Friday morning.
Before Ludwig and Walkenhorst advanced to their three-straight FIVB World Tour semi-final with a 2-0 (21-10, 21-19) win in 33 minutes over 25th-seded qualifiers Nina Betschart/Tanja Huberli of Switzerland, Laboureur and Sude ousted 22nd-seeded qualifiers Maria Antonelli/Liliane Maestrini of Brazil 2-0 (21-12, 21-14) in 39 minutes.