Hamburg, Germany, June 8, 2016 - After placing 17th in their last FIVB World Tour appearance for their worst international Beach Volleyball placement in 17 events, Brazilians Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas had a week off to review their season to date and prepare for this week’s US$800,000 smart Major Hamburg.
The reigning FIVB world champions, Agatha and Barbara had not finished lower than ninth in a FIVB World Tour stop since September 2014 until placing 17th two weeks ago at the Moscow Grand Slam where the Brazilian pair were the top-seeded team in the second of nine “big” events on the 2015-2016 FIVB World Tour calendar.
After losing their last two matches in the Russian capital to tandems from Switzerland and the Czech Republic, Agatha and Barbara dropped to the fourth-seed for the inaugural smart Major Hamburg where the Brazilians opened play with a 2-0 (21-19, 21-15) Pool D win in 34 minutes over 13th-seeded compatriots Eduarda “Duda” Lisboa and Elize Maia.
The win was especially pleasing for Agatha and Barbara as Duda and Elize Maia entered this week’s event listed higher on the 2015-2016 FIVB World Tour (12th as compared to 30th). Duda and Elize Maia had posted three podium placements and two gold medal finishes this season while Agatha and Barbara only had a bronze medal to their credit in four FIVB events.
“We are not disappointed with our play to date this season,” said the 28-year old Barbara, “but we were expecting to do better, especially in Moscow where we had high expectations. Our overall record is not bad (16-5). The key is being patience. Of course, already securing an Olympic berth has relieved a lot of pressure on us, but still we need to play better and play with more purpose as we prepare for Rio.”
Agatha and Barbara ended Wednesday by posting a come-from-behind 2-1 (16-21, 29-27, 18-16) win in 55 minutes over 29th-seeded qualifiers Victoria Bieneck/Julia Grossner of Germany. The Brazilians conclude pool play Thursday against 20th-seeded Linline Matauatu/Miller Pata of Vanuatu. The two teams have met once on the FIVB World Tour will the Vanuatuans defeating Agatha and Barbara last August at an United States Grand Slam in Long Beach 2-1 (21-12, 19-21, 15-13) in a 49-minute elimination match.
With the Brazilian federation naming their teams for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games last September, Agatha and Barbara filled the spot awarded for their gold medal performance at the 2015 FIVB World Championships in The Hague. Compatriots Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca fill the Brazilian host country spot for women at the Olympics.
Brazilians also played a role in Wednesday’s other interesting development as 19th-seeded Maria Antonelli/Liliane Maestrini of Brazil scored a 2-1 (21-12, 13-21, 20-18) win in 55 minutes over third-seeded April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings to snap the American’s 23-match winning streak.
“The key was that we never lost focus and played with great emotion against the Americans,” said the 28-year old Liliane. “Maria played a great match and we did not lose our faith in each other when the Americans came back strong in the second set. We keep playing hard and believed in ourselves in a very challenging third-set against a great team.”
With an earlier 2-1 (15-21, 21-10, 15-11) Pool C win in 44 minutes over 14th-seeded Marta Menegatti and Viktoria Orsi Toth of Italy, Antonelli and Liliane play 30th-seeded qualifiers Teresa Mersmann and Isabel Schneider of Germany Thursday as the Brazilians appear headed for a first-round “bye” in Friday’s elimination rounds.
In addition to their winning streak that featured gold medal finishes in China (Fuzhou), the United States (Cincinnati) and Russia (Moscow), Ross and Walsh Jennings had also won 23-straight FIVB pool play matches. The Americans have only lost three of 44 matches this season with the other two setbacks being in the gold medal match at March’s Vitoria Open in Brazil (Talita/Larissa) and the Xiamen (China) semi-finals in April (Stefanie Schwaiger/Barbara Hansel of Austria).
With the smart Major Hamburg featuring men’s play, the women’s schedule had 32 matches Wednesday with the last set of pool play contests Thursday (16 matches). The men’s schedule featured 16 matches Wednesday and the final two rounds of 32 group matches Thursday.
The top three teams from each pool advance to Friday’s elimination bracket where the women will play three rounds and the men two. The winners of each group earn a first-round elimination “bye” and secure a guaranteed ninth in the smart Major Hamburg. The men play their quarter-final contests Saturday and the women contest their semi-finals and medal matches. The men’s semi-final and medal matches will be played Sunday.