Porec, Croatia, July 2, 2016 - Friday was a historical day at the US$800,000 Porec Major for German Beach Volleyball as three women’s teams from the European country advanced to a FIVB World Tour “final four” for the first-time since the start of internationally-sanctioned events in 1987.
Saturday could be another history-making day for the country if the pairs of Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst, Karla Borger/Britta Buthe and Chantal Laboureur/Julia Sude can all medal together in the second of five SWATCH Major Series events on the 2015-2016 FIVB World Tour calendar.
Canadians Heather Bansley and Sarah Pavan will be using their patented “blocking and defense” game to stop the German assault on the Porec podium. The North Americans also made history Friday by becoming the first women’s team from their country to play in back-to-back semi-finals at the same site as the Canadians won Porec Major silver in 2015. At the end of last season, Bansley was voted the FIVB top defender and Pavan the world tour’s best blocker.
Sarah Pavan of Canada
To start play Saturday morning, the 10th-seeded Borger/Buthe will play 19th-seeded qualifiers Laboureur/Sude followed by a meeting between the second-seeded Ludwig/Walkenhorst and fourth-seeded Bansley/Pavan. The two victors will meet in the afternoon for the gold medal and the $57,000 Porec Major first-place prize.
Borger and Buthe will be meeting Laboureur and Sude for the fourth-time on the FIVB World Tour with the three previous meetings being this season in Brazil (Maceio), China (Fuzhou) and Turkey (Antalya). The BBs, who lead the series 2-1, won the last meeting with a 2-1 (13-21, 21-18, 15-11) win in 48 minutes May 13 at Antalya.
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-setter last July at the Yokohama Grand Slam in Japan.
Women's Porec Major Bracket
If Ludwig and Walkenhorst can defeat the Canadians to extend their personal winning streak to 20 on the FIVB World Tour and 25 overall, the Porec Major gold medal match will be the second All-German finale in international history with the first being nearly two years ago in Switzerland when Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler defeated Borger and Buthe for the Gstaad “cow bells” and the top spot on the podium.
With the German women guaranteed two medals Saturday, it marks the ninth time it has happened since the start of women’s FIVB play in 1992. The German men have accomplished it 14 times since the introduction of international events in 1987, but only once with a gold and silver combination.
In July 2005 at Espinho, Portugal, Julius Brink and Kjell Schneider defeated Markus Dieckmann and Jonas Reckermann in the three-set, 70-minute final. Seven years later, Brink and Reckermann won a gold medal together at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Along with three teams in the semi-finals, Germany will also finish the Porec Major with six teams ranked among the top 17 in the tournament as the women combined to post a 23-8 record with two more wins guaranteed along with one setback. Holtwick and Semmler placed ninth with the pairs Victoria Bieneck/Julia Grossner and Teresa Mersmann/Isabel Schneider tying for 17th.
Led by Ludwig and Walkenhorst, who have won 46 of 50 matches this season, Germany has all six pairs ranked among the top 32 teams on the FIVB World Tour. Ludwig/Walkenhorst (4,540 points entering play Saturday) and Holtwick/Semmler (4,140) are 1-2 with Borger/Buthe (3,780) tied for fourth, Laboureur/Sude (3,720) tied for sixth, Bieneck/Grossner (2,240) 24th and Mersmann/Schneider (1,960) tied for 32nd.
Ludwig and Walkenhorst, the two-time European champions, will be their country’s top-seeded team in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games with Borger and Buthe No. 2 after beating out Holtwick/Semmler and Laboureur/Sude for the second German spot on Copacabana.
The Porec Major also features men’s play with Saturday’s schedule highlighted by “Sweet 16” and “Elite Eight” matches to set the field for Sunday’s “final four” competition. Saturday’s opening elimination round will be highlight by two Brazil versus The Netherlands matches.
Being played at the same time with the victors meeting later Saturday afternoon in the quarter-finals, top-seeded and reigning FIVB world champions Alison Cerutti/Bruno Oscar Schmidt of Brazil will be challenged by second-seeded and 2013 world champions Alexander Brouwer/Robert Meeuwsen of The Netherlands while 10th-seeded Pedro Solberg/Evandro Goncalves of Brazil meet 11th-seeded Reinder Nummerdor/Christiaan Varenhorst of The Netherlands.
All four pairs are headed to the Olympics will be seeded among the top-six teams in Rio along with two American teams Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena and Jake Gibb/Casey Patterson, who will playing in the Porec Major Saturday.
The third-seeded Dalhausser and Lucena will be playing 13th-seeded compatriots Tri Bourne and John Hyden while the fourth-seeded Gibb and Patterson will be meeting seventh-seeded Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak of Poland. The grouping is interesting as Kantor and Losiak are the top team on the 2015-2016 FIVB World Tour ranking list with the Americans No. 3 (Dalhausser/Lucena), No. 4 (Bourne/Hyden) and No. 6 (Gibb/Patterson).
Men's Porec Major Bracket
After the Porec Major, the SWATCH Major Series continues with two more stops in Europe at Gstaad Switzerland (July 5-10) and Klagenfurt, Austria (July 26-31). Following the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the ASISCS World Series of Beach Volleyball at the end of August in the United States at Long Beach will be the final event used to determine the top eight teams for the SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals to be played September 13-18 at a site to be determined.