Klagenfurt, Austria, July 28, 2016 -With 48 of the 72 women’s Main Draw matches being played in the US$800,000 A1 Major Klagenfurt, one thing is for sure, the Germans are in position to make another run at a FIVB World Tour podium sweep as three teams from the European country captured pool titles here Thursday.
Led by unbeatens second-seeded Karla Borger/Britta Buthe (Pool B) and fourth-seeded Chantal Laboureur/Julia Sude (Poo1 A), the Germans will have four teams competing in the elimination rounds after posting a combined 10-2 match mark during the three rounds group action in the fourth of five SWATCH Major Series events on the 2015-2016 international Beach Volleyball calendar.
Also winning their group for Germany were Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst as the top-seeded pair rebounded from an upset setback in their first match Wednesday to an American team to defeat pairs from Brazil and Canada to capture Pool A.
Also advancing to the elimination rounds for Germany were 24th-seeded qualifiers Victoria Bieneck/Julia Grossner, who posted a 2-1 record in Pool H and won their opening elimination match Thursday afternoon over a team from Italy. With the knockout win, Bieneck and Grossner challenge Ludwig and Walkenhorst in the second meeting between the two teams on the FIVB World Tour. Ludwig and Walkenhorst defeated their German rivals earlier this season in a pool play match in Poland.
While Borger/Buthe and Laboureur/Sude earned their “bye” to the second-round of elimination by each winning all three of their pool matches, Ludwig and Walkenhorst bested 32nd-seeded “wild card” entrant Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes of the United States for the first-round “free pass” in the knockout portion of the A1 Major Klagenfurt competition.
With both teams tying in Pool A with a 2-1 group records, Ludwig and Walkenhorst edged Claes and Hughes by one point to gain the “bye”. After Ludwig and Walkenhorst defeated 16th-seeded Jamie Broder/Kristina Valjas of Canada 2-0 (25-23, 21-18) in 40 minutes, Claes and Hughes fell to 17th-seeded Angela Lavalle/Elize Maia of Brazil 2-1 (14-21, 26-24, 15-11) in 51 minutes. If the Americans had dropped the final set to Angela and Elize Maia by a 15-13, Claes and Hughes finished atop the group and watching the first-round of elimination Thursday afternoon.
The last time Germany was in position for a podium sweep was four weeks at the Porec Major in Croatia where Laboureur and Sude defeated Heather Bansley and Sarah Pavan in the finals after the Canadians upset Ludwig and Walkenhorst in the semi-finals to force an All-German bronze medal match. Borger and Buthe defeated Ludwig and Walkenhorst for the third spot on the Porec podium.
Germany is tied with Brazil as the most productive country in regards to podium placements and “final four” finishes this season. Both countries have claimed 12 medals each with 14 semi-final appearances. The Germans have a 5-4 edge in gold medals won during the 2015-2016 FIVB World Tour season with Ludwig and Walkenhorst capturing four titles enroute to their circuit leadership as the top team on the points list.
Other women’s pool winners Thursday were from Australia, Brazil, Poland and Switzerland. Successful Brazilian pairs in group play were ninth-seeded Juliana Felisberta/Taiana Lima (Pool H) and 26th-seeded qualifiers Fernanda Alves/Josemari Alves (no relation, Pool G). While Juliana and Lima were undefeated in pool play, Alves topped their group with a 2-1 record and a point ratio advantage over seventh-seeded Elsa Baquerizo/Liliana Fernandez of Spain.
Also gaining “byes” for elimination play after winning their groups were third-seeded Kinga Kolosinska/Monika Brzostek of Poland (Pool C), fifth-seeded Joana Heidrich/Nadine Zumkehr of Switzerland (Pool E) and sixth-seeded Louise Bawden/Taliqua Clancy of Australia (Pool F). The Poles and Aussies were 3-0 in their groups while Heidrich and Zumkehr bested 21st-seeded Vasiliki Arvaniti/Penny Karagkouni of Greece as both pairs were 2-1 in Pool E, but the Swiss had a better point ratio.
With 12 teams competing in the A1 Major Klagenfurt that will be bound for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games next week, 11 of the pairs advanced to the women’s elimination bracket where the “Sweet 16” and “Elite 8” matches will be played Friday to set the schedule for Saturday’s semi-finals and podium placement contests. So far this week, the Olympic qualifiers have combined for a 27-15 match mark.
Here are the results from Thursday afternoon’s first-round of elimination.
• Arvaniti/Karagkouni, Greece (21st-seeded) def. Melissa Humana-Paredes/Taylor Pischke, Canada (20), 2-1 (16-21, 21-19, 15-13)
• Ana Gallay/Georgina Klug, Argentina (13) def. Jamie Broder/Kristina Valjas, Canada (16), 2-0 (21-18, 21-15)
• Ekaterina Birlova/Evgeniya Ukolova, Russia (19) def. Lane Carico/Summer Ross, United States (22, qualifier), 2-1 (21-16, 20-22, 20-18)
• Elsa/Liliana, Spain (7) def. Maria Antonelli/Liliane Maestrini, Brazil (12), 2-1 (19-21, 21-18, 15-13)
• Barbora Hermannova/Marketa Slukova, Czech Republic (11) def. Emily Day/Brittany Hochevar, United States (25, qualifier), 2-1 (16-21, 21-16, 15-8)
• Nina Betschart/Tanja Huberli, Switzerland (18) def. Claes/Hughes, United States (32), 2-1 (14-21, 21-18, 15-9)
• Isabelle Forrer/Anouk Verge-Depre, Switzerland (10) def. Taru Lahti/Riikka Lehtonen, Finland (15), 2-0 (25-23, 21-18)
• Bieneck/Grossner, Germany (24, qualifier) def. Laura Giombini/Rebecca Perry, Italy (30, qualifier), 2-0 (21-18, 21-10)
Here are the pairings for Friday’s opening elimination matches with the winner’s advancing to the afternoon quarter-finals.
• Borger/Buthe, Germany (2) vs. Arvaniti/Penny Karagkouni, Greece (21)
• Juliana/Lima, Brazil (9) vs. Gallay/Klug, Argentina (13)
• Heidrich/Zumkehr, Switzerland (5) vs. Birlova/Ukolova, Russia (19)
• Kolosinska/Brzostek, Poland (3) vs. Elsa/Liliana, Spain (7)
• Laboureur/Sude, Germany (4) vs. Hermannova/Slukova, Czech Republic (11)
• Fernanda/Josemari, Brazil (26, Q7) vs. Betschart/Huberli, Switzerland (18)
• Bawden/Clancy, Australia (6) vs. Forrer/Verge-Depre, Switzerland (10)
• Ludwig/Walkenhorst Germany (1) vs. Bieneck/Grossner, Germany (24, Q3)
The A1 Major Klagenfurt also features men’s play where the Main Draw started Thursday. The men’s elimination bracket will be played Friday and Saturday with the semi-finals and medal matches Sunday on the Lake Wörthersee center court. The winning men’s and women’s teams will share the $57,000 first-place prize.