Moscow, Russia, May 28, 2016 -Trailing 13-11 in the third and deciding set to defending Moscow Grand Slam champions Adrian Gavira and Pablo Herrera of Spain, Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson of the United States were on the brink of elimination and headed for their fourth-straight fifth-place finish on the FIVB World Tour.
"I was thinking: Jake, get a block down the line,” said Patterson after match as the second-seeded Americans rallied to score a 2-1 (21-17, 13-21, 16-14) quarter-final win in 47 minutes over 12th-seeded Gavira and Herrera, who captured their first-ever FIVB gold medal at last year’s stop in the Russian capital. “You got one and then go back to serve. Hit it as hard as you can and that's what I did."
As Patterson described, the Americans scored five of the last six points in the match to secure the win and advance to their first international “final four” together since last August when the duo dropped the gold medal match to reigning FIVB world champions Alison Cerutti and Bruno Oscar Schmidt.
"I think our serving was the difference,” said the 40-year old Gibb as his team reach a FIVB World Tour semi-final for the eighth-time in 38 international starts together. “Pablo and Adrian were side-out masters that match. We could not stop them. So we had to serve tough. And that was really the only way we scored. So Casey, his serving in the end won that one for us."
In adding another 80 points to their qualifying total for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games to rank fourth on the provisional list, excluding Brazil, with 5,050 points for their best 12 finishes on the FIVB World Tour since the start of the process in April 2015, Gibb said “it's exciting to grow towards the Olympics, but this is a Grand Slam and we want to win this.”
The Americans now play fifth-seeded Reinder Nummerdor and Christiaan Varenhorst, who advanced with a 2-0 (21-17, 26-24) quarter-final win in 37 minutes over Dutch compatriots Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen. It was the sixth FIVB World Tour match between the two teams from The Netherlands with Nummerdor and Varenhorst winning every evened number confrontation.
Since both teams know each other very well, Nummerdor was asked after the match if his team tried something new today? "No, nothing new,” said the 39-year old Nummerdor, who will be playing in his third Beach Volleyball Olympics this August on Copacabana. “But we know their preferences. And that's what they know about us. So it's always a battle, always difficult. I think my serve pressure today was really good. So that's important against this team, because they are one of the best side-out teams in the world. So you need a big serve. Chris had some really important blocks. So all together the key was to make a good side-out. And our side-out so far in this tournament has been really good."
The 26-year old Varenhorst, who will be playing in his first Olympics, was asked about the end of the second set where Brouwer and Meeuwsen needed a win to force the third set. “At the end, I was thinking why I block this,” the 212cm (6-11) Varenhorst said. “I thought I figured out what they wanted to hit. But my blocking was not where I wanted it to be. It slipped through my hands a couple of times. But then I was really happy with the last one, because it was exactly the way I thought it would be. And I blocked it and that was an important moment of course. Reinder's serving was the key as it really made the difference in the match."
Christiaan Varenhorst (left) and Reinder Nummerdor of The Netherlands
In the other semi-final match, it will be top-seeded and reigning FIVB world champions Alison Cerutti and Bruno Oscar Schmidt of Brazil playing 17th-seeded Bartosz Losiak and Piotr Kantor of Poland for the second-time in three days at the Moscow Grand Slam. On Thursday, the Brazilians posted a 2-0 (21-18, 26-24) pool play win in 43 minutes. Overall, Alison and Bruno have won all for FIVB meetings with the Poles.
To reach the semi-finals, Losiak and Kantor posted a 2-1 (23-25, 21-16, 15-7) quarter-final win in 52 minutes over 21st-seeded Vitor Felipe/Alvaro Filho of Brazil. Alison and Bruno overcame 16-11 deficits in both sets of their “Elite 8” match with 13th-seeded with Paolo Nicolai/Daniele Lupo to posted a 2-0 (21-19, 2-18) win in 38 minutes over the Italians.
Alison Cerutti (left) of Brazil blocks against Daniele Lupo of Itay
The Moscow Grand Slam also features women’s play with the medal matches scheduled for Sunday afternoon with the gold medal teams sharing the $57,000 first-places prizes.