Moscow, Russia, May 28, 2016 - Heather Bansley and Sarah Pavan were looking for some revenge here Saturday morning at the US$800,000 Grand Slam at the Vodny Stadium Beach Sports Centre, and the Canadians got it.
After technically losing their last two matches to Monika Brzostek/Kinga Kolosinska at FIVB World Tour Grand Slam events, the fifth-seeded Bansley and Pavan posted 2-1 (14-21, 21-11, 15-11) quarter-final win in 41 minutes over the 11th-seeded Polish pair to advance to their first international semi-final since placing fourth at last October’s SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals in the United States.
Entering the match, Brzostek and Kolosinska led the FIVB series 2-1 with the last match being forfeited by the Canadians in mid-March at the Rio Grand Slam. Brzostek and Kolosinska won the last match played on sand with a 2-1 (22-24, 21-19, 16-14) elimination win in 57 minutes at the Olsztyn Grand Slam last August in Poland.
"We are happy we won,” said Pavan, “but it could have been smoother on our side. Poland has been having a really strong season so far, they are a really strong team, so we are happy we were able to win. As for the forfeit in Rio, Heather and I ran into each other and I got a concussion and broke my toe. So I was unable to continue unfortunately, but it was nice that we were able to have a rematch in this tournament."
Bansley said she “struggled siding out and they didn't make too many errors and they were really smooth. And we didn't get many points on transition. Mostly our mistakes.” Pavan said the key to winning was that her team started “turning more points. We mixed up the serves a little more instead of focusing on one we kind of went back and forth. And we were more disciplined with our game plan."
With their fifth-straight win in the Moscow Grand Slam to secure a guaranteed fourth-place finish, Bansley and Pavan have erased the memory of placing 17th, 17th, and 25th in their first three appearances in the Russian capital. The Canadians’ next match is against second-seeded and defending tournament champions Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca of Brazil.
The Brazilians have won five-straight matches with Bansley and Pavan, but the Canadians’ lone win over Talita and Larissa on the international circuit was a 2-1 (21-17, 17-21, 15-13) pool play win was a year and a day ago at the Moscow Grand Slam.
Larissa Franca (right) of Brazil hits against Germany's Britta Buthe in a quarter-final match Saturday morning
“The Canadians are a very good team,” said Talita, “and they are playing very well this week. Sarah is a great force at the net and Heather plays great defense. They beat us here last year and then placed 25th. That was amazing.” For Pavan, playing the Brazilians six times is good as she said “we know each other well, so it's going to be a good match."
Unbeaten in 10 sets this week, Talita and Larissa advanced to the semi-final match against the Canadians with a 2-0 (22-20, 21-10) win in 32 minutes over 10th-seeded Karla Borger and Britta Buthe of Germany. At the end of February, the Germans had defeated Talita and Larissa in a “Sweet 16” match at the Maceio Open in Brazil.
In the other quarter-final matches, third-seeded April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings scored a 2-0 (21-10, 21-15) in 28 minutes over 19th-seeded qualifiers Eduarda “Duda” Lisboa and Elize Maia of Brazil while sixth-seeded Juliana Felisberta and Taiana Lima of Brazil posted a 2-0 (21-19, 21-14) win over 16th-seeded Joana Heidrich and Nadine Zumkehr of Switzerland.
The two teams will be meeting for the first-time on the FIVB World Tour as Juliana and Lima are playing in only their fifth event together after competing last season with Maria Antonelli and Fernanda Alves, respectively. Juliana and Lima have a silver medal to their credit this season after losing the Brazilian Open finale in Fortaleza to Duda and Elize Maia.
Dancing With the Beach Volleyball Stars - Taiana Lima (left) of Brazil and Joana Heidrich of Switzerland
The Moscow Grand Slam also features men’s play with the medal matches scheduled for Sunday afternoon with the gold medal teams sharing the $57,000 first-places prizes.