Klagenfurt, Austria, July 27, 2016 - While American “wild card” entries Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes were capturing the headlines with a pair of wins over Rio-bound pairs, the 12 Copacabana Olympic teams combined for a 15-9 record at the US$800,000 A1 Major Klagenfurt here Wednesday.
A! Major Klagenfurt Pool C features three Copacabana contestants as third-seeded Monika Brzostek and Kinga Kolosinska of Poland won both of their matches Wednesday highlighted by a 2-1 (15-21, 21-16, 18-16) win in 40 minutes over Ekaterina Birlova and Evgeniya Ukolova of Russia.
The two teams will meet August 9 in Rio in an Olympic Pool A match. Wednesday’s victory snapped a three-game losing streak to the Russians for Brzostek and Kolosinska, who trail Birlova and Ukolova in the FIVB World Tour head-to-head 3-2.
While Brzostek and Kolosinska opened play Wednesday with a 2-0 (21-15, 21-17) win in 29 minutes over 30th-seeded qualifiers Laura Giombini and Rebecca Perry of Italy, Birlova and Ukolova posted a 2-0 (23-21, 21-19) victory in 37 minutes over 14th-seeded Rio Olympic qualifiers Mariafe Artacho and Nicole Laird of Australia.
The Poles close out pool play Thursday morning against Artacho and Laird while Birlova and Ukolova play Giombini and Perry. Brzostek and Kolosinska can clinch the Klagenfurt Pool C title by defeating the Australians or by finishing with a better point ratio than the winner of the Italy-Russia match. Brzostek and Kolosinska enter Thursday with a plus-11 point advantage with the Russians at plus-3 and the Italians at minus-3.
Seeded as the 32nd and last in the women’s Main Draw at the A1 Major Klagenfurt, Claes and Hughes surprised Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst in an opening Pool A match Wednesday with a 2-0 (21-18, 21-19) victory in 34 minutes over the top-seeded Germans.
Several hours later, Claes and Hughes defeated their second-straight Rio Olympic pair with a 2-0 (21-17, 21-17) win in 34 minutes over 16th-seeded Jamie Broder and Kristina Valjas of Canada, who opened play Wednesday with a 2-1 (18-21, 21-18, 23-21) win in 66 minutes over 17th-seeded Angela Lavalle/Elize Maia of Brazil.
Ludwig and Walkenhorst, the top-ranked on the 2015-2016 FIVB World Tour, rebounded from their opening setback with a 2-0 (21-17, 21-11) win in 32 minutes over Angela and Elize Maia. The Germans play Broder and Valjas Thursday morning in a preview of their August 9 Pool D match with the Canadians at the Rio Olympics on Copacabana. The two teams have met five times on the FIVB World Tour with Ludwig and Walkenhorst holding a 4-1 edge.
Claes and Hughes, who captured the American collegiate title in May while playing for the University of Southern California, can clinch the Klagenfurt Pool A title by defeating Angela and Elize Maia Thursday morning or by finishing with a better point ratio than the winner of the Canada-Germany match. The Americans enter Thursday with a plus-13 point advantage with Ludwig/Walkenhorst at plus-9 and the Broder/Valjas at minus-6.
Other Rio Olympic pairs playing in this week’s A1 Major Klagenfurt are:
Pool B - Karla Borger/Britta Buthe, Germany (2-0 match mark Wednesday, Copacabana Pool E)
Pool D - Ana Gallay/Georgina Klug, Argentina (2-0, Copacabana Pool B)
Pool E - Joana Heidrich/Nadine Zumkehr, Switzerland (1-1, Copacabana Pool E)
Pool F - Louise Bawden/Taliqua Clancy, Australia (2-0, Copacabana Pool F), Barbora Hermannova/Marketa Slukova, Czech Republic (1-1, Copacabana Pool B)
Pool G - Elsa Baquerizo/Liliana Fernandez, Spain (1-1, Copacabana Pool B); Isabelle Forrer/Anouk Verge-Depre, Switzerland (1-1, Copacabana Pool C)
Pool H - None
The A1 Major Klagenfurt also features men’s play where the Main Draw starts Thursday after Wednesday’s 24-match qualifier. The women’s finale is Saturday with the men’s semi-finals and medal matches Sunday on the Lake Wörthersee center court. The winning teams will share the $57,000 first-place prize.