Porec, Croatia, June 28, 2016 - With the prospects of the top-eight seeded teams in this week’s FIVB World Tour women’s qualifier advancing to the “money” rounds at the US$800,000 Porec Open for only the fifth-time since the advent of rally scoring in 2001, Jagoda Gruszczynska and Dorota Strag of Poland spoiled the day.
Seeded 11th, Gruszczynska and Strag scored a 2-0 (21-19, 21-16) win in 30 minutes over sixth-seeded Rimke Braakman and Jolien Sinnema of The Netherlands. The win was especially impressive for the Poles as Braakman and Sinnema were part of the Dutch team that secured a spot for their country in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at last weekend’s European Continental Cup finals in Stavanger, Norway.
With Gruszczynska and Strag posting two wins Tuesday with their first win over a team from South Africa, Poland joined Austria, Brazil, Germany and Switzerland in advancing to Wednesday’s Main Draw schedule where two rounds of pool play matches will be played.
The last time “perfection” happened at a women’s FIVB World Tour stop was earlier this month at the first SWATCH Major Series stop this season and Tuesday’s qualifier had two of the participants from the smart Major Hamburg playing again in the preliminary rounds seeking a spot in an international Beach Volleyball Main Draw.
Both teams were from Germany as Victoria Bieneck/Julia Grossner and Teresa Mersmann/Isabel Schneider defeated teams from Spain and Russia, respectively, to advance to the “money” rounds in Hamburg. Tuesday, the two German pairs were successful in qualifying for the Porec Major Main Draw along with compatriots and top-seeded Chantal Laboureur and Julia Sude.
Seeded first in the 24-team qualifier, Laboureur and Sude advanced by defeating 17th-seeded Magdalena Dostalova/Karolina Rehackova of the Czech Republic 2-0 (21-14, 21-13) in 28 minutes while fourth-seeded Bieneck and Grosser posted a 2-0 (21-17, 21-12) victory in 30 minutes over 13th-seeded Angela Lobato/Paula Soria of Spain. In one of Tuesday’s final matches, Mersmann and Schneider eliminated 10th-seeded Natalia Dubovcova/Nina Herelova of the Slovak Republic 2-0 (21-13, 21-16) in 33 minutes.
Germany will now have six pairs in the women’s Main Draw led by Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst, who have captured the last two FIVB World Tour stops in Hamburg and Olsztyn, Poland. Other pairs from the European country are Karla Borger/Britta Buthe and Katrin Holtwick/Ilka Semmler.
Brazil had two teams advance from the qualifier, including second-seeded Fernanda Alves/Josemari Alves and third-seeded Maria Antonelli/Liliane Maestrini. While Fernanda and Josemari won easily in two sets over a team from the Czech Republic, Antonelli and Liliane rallied to defeat 14th-seeded Betsi Flint/Kelley Larsen of the United States 2-1 (19-21, 21-17, 15-12) in the longest women’s match of the day (47 minutes).
Other women’s qualifiers were fifth-seeded Nina Betschart/Tanja Huberli of Switzerland and eighth-seeded Lena Plesiutschnig/Katharina Schutzenhofer of Austria. Plesiutschnig and Schutzenhofer also competed in the European Continental Cup event where the pair teamed with compatriots Barbara Hansel and Stefanie Schwaiger.
Despite finishing fourth in Stavanger, the Austrian team will compete this week in the Porec Major before heading next week to the Continental Cup Finals where the last two women’s berths for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games will be determined.
With pool play and elimination matches featured on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, the women’s semi-finals and medal matches will be played Saturday. The men’s pool play matches will be Thursday and Friday with elimination rounds on Saturday followed by the “final four” contests Sunday. The winning pairs will share the $57,000 first-place prizes.
Following the Porec Major, the SWATCH Series continues with stops in Switzerland (Gstaad, July 5-10) and Austria (Klagenfurt, July 26-31). Following the Olympics and the ASISCS World Series of Beach Volleyball at the end of August in the United States at Long Beach, the SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals will be held September 8-13. The site for the event where the winning teams shared $100,000 first-place prizes, will be announced in the coming weeks.