Gstaad, Switzerland, July 5, 2016 - A pair of teenagers from the Netherlands along with tandems from the Slovak Republic and Switzerland posted major seed-breakthroughs here Tuesday afternoon to advance with five other teams to the women’s 'money' rounds of the $800,000 Gstaad Major as the FIVB World Tour returns to the Swiss village for the record 17th-straight season.
Highlighting the upsets was a win by 17-year old Nika Daalderop and 18-year old Joy Stubbe of the Netherlands, who were playing in their first-ever FIVB World Tour event, over an experienced Brazilian team with a combined age of 68 with one of the South American players a silver medalists at the 2015 FIVB “senior” World Championships in The Hague.
Twelfth-seeded Natalia Dubovcova/Nina Herelova of the Slovak Republic and 13th-seeded Nicole Eiholzer/Dunja Gerson of Switzerland also scored break-through wins Tuesday to gain berths with the Dutch teenagers in the pool play rounds beginning Wednesday morning in the third of five SWATCH Major Series events.
Believed to be one of the youngest teams to ever play together in a FIVB World Tour event, Daalderop and Stubbe advanced to the Gstaad Major Main Draw with a 2-1 (18-21, 26-24, 15-12) win in 48 minutes over third-seeded Fernanda (31 years old) and Josemari Alves (37 and no relation to her partner) of Brazil.
Daalderop and Stubbe placed fifth at May’s FIVB under-21 World Championships in Switzerland (Lucerne) in mid-May after losing in the quarter-finals to eventual winners Eduarda “Duda” Lisboa and Ana Patricia Silva of Brazil. The Dutch won the European under-20 championship in mid-June at Antalya, Turkey.
Daalderop and Stubbe became only the second team to claim back-to-back European under-20 titles since the competition was established back in the late 1990s . Nina Betschart and Eiholzer of Switzerland achieved the same feat in 2013 and 2014. Betschart is competing in the Gstaad Major Main Draw with Tanja Huberli.
With their first Main Draw appearance, Daalderop and Stubbe will continue to play the world’s best teams with their first pool play opponent expected to be defending Gstaad Major gold medal winners Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca of Brazil, who qualified as the top tandem for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Dubovcova, who was celebrating her 26th birthday Tuesday, and new partner Herelova advanced unexpectedly to the Main draw by upsetting fifth-seeded Rimke Braakman/Jolien Sinnema of the Netherlands 2-1 (13-21, 21-15, 15-13) in 42 minutes. Two weeks ago in Norway, the Dutch women were part of a successful team that qualified a second tandem for the Netherlands for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Host country favorites Eiholzer and Gerson eliminated fourth-seeded Sayaka Mizoe and Takemi Nishibori of Japan 2-0 (21-17, 24-22) in 38 minutes. Gerson is the younger sister of Mirco Gerson, who will be competing in the men’s Main Draw with Philip Gabathuler.
Top-seeded qualifier Chantal Laboureur and Julia Sude of Germany, who won the gold medal this past Sunday at the Porec Major in Croatia, also won their qualifying match by defeating 16th-seeded Laura Caluori and Elena Steinemann of Switzerland 2-0 (21-15, 21-12) in 27 minutes. In winning the Porec Major, Laboureur and Sude became the 11th women’s team to advance from a qualifier to win a FIVB World Tour event.
Joining the Germans in winning as expected Tuesday were seventh-seeded compatriots Teresa Mersmann/Isabel Schneider. The American pairs of sixth-seeded Lane Carico/Summer Ross and eighth-seeded Kim DiCello/Kendra Vanzwieten also qualified along with second-seeded Maria Antonelli/Liliane Maestrini of Brazil.
The women’s Gstaad Major’s schedule will feature pool play matches Wednesday and Thursday to set the field for the 24-team elimination bracket. With the women’s pool winners advancing to Friday’s second-round of elimination with a “bye” and a guaranteed ninth in the competition, the second- and third-place finishers will play the first-round of knockout Thursday afternoon. The women’s semi-finals and medal matches will be played Saturday where the winning team will share the $57,000 first-place prize.
The Gstaad Major also features men’s play where country quota and opening qualifying matches were played Tuesday. The men’s qualifier will conclude mid-day Wednesday with eight teams advancing to Thursday’s opening pool play rounds. The men’s quarter-finals will be Saturday with the “final four” matches Sunday.