Vienna, Austria, August 1, 2018 - Prior to winning the European championships two weeks ago in their native Holland, Sanne Keizer and Madelein Meppelink had never placed higher than 17th at a Beach Major Series event and had only one final four finish in their previous nine FIVB World Tour events together.
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That changed here Wednesday at the $600,000 A1 Major Vienna presented by Swatch as the 17th-seeded Dutch women’s pair posted two pool play wins highlighted by a 2-0 (24-22, 21-15) win in 39 minutes over top-seeded Melissa Humana-Paredes/Sarah Pavan of Canada to secure a guaranteed ninth in the third Beach Major Series event on the 2017-2018 FIVB World Tour calendar.
“The key was our patience today,” said 33-year old Keizer, who is returning to play full-time on the FIVB World Tour after playing in only two international beach volleyball events the past two seasons. “We learned in the European championships to take our time and not to rush our play. Being patient has really helped us.”
A 2012 Olympian at the London Summer Games with Marleen Van Iersel where the pair placed ninth after being eliminated by eventual winners Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings, Keizer also noted that “the Austrian crowd is great, especially this early in the tournament. It is always great to play in Austria as the fans really support the players.”
Combined with their 2-0 (21-18, 15-15) win in 34 minutes over Kelley Larsen/Emily Stockman of the United States on Wednesday morning, Keizer and Meppelink secured the Pool A title and earned a bye for the first round of elimination that netted the Dutch a day off on Thursday before resuming play on Friday.
Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda "Duda" Lisboa of Brazil were the only top eight-seeded team to win both of their matches on Wednesday to win a group title (Pool C). Wednesday also marked Duda’s 20th birthday as the third-seeded South American posted pool wins over teams from Russia and the United States.
“I love playing beach volleyball and just to be able to do it on my birthday is so special,” said Duda. “I couldn’t have a better way to celebrate it. I wanted to give those victories to myself as a gift. Last year I was here in Vienna too for the World Championships and we lost to the Dutch team and I was so upset about it. I’m glad I had this opportunity to erase those memories.”
Eduarda "Duda" Lisboa celebrates birthday No. 20 on Wednesday with the Vienna Major ball kids
In addition to the Dutch duo, other teams winning groups unexpectedly were 31st-seeded Marta Menegatti/Viktoria Orsi Toth of Italy (Pool B), 13th-seeded Kelly Claes/Brittany Hochevar of the United States (Pool D), 28th-seeded qualifiers Lauren Fendrick/Sarah Sponcil of the United States (Pool E), 22nd-seeded Katarzyna Kociolek/Kinga Kolosinska of Poland (Pool F), 10th-seeded Maria Antonelli/Carolina Salgado of Brazil (Pool G), Mariafe Artacho/Taliqua Clancy of Australia (Pool H).
Highlighting the upsets was Menegatti and Orsi Toth’s opening win Wednesday over second-seeded Heather Bansley/Brandie Wilkerson of Canada while Fendrick and Sponcil had to defeat two of the three teams from Germany in Pool E. It marked the 24th-time in FIVB World Tour history that three men’s or women’s teams from the same country competed in same pool.
Italians Marta Menegatti (left) and Viktoria Orsi Toth celebrate a point against Canada on Wednesday
While the men were completing two days of qualifying on Wednesday, the women played two rounds of modified pool play with 24 of the 32 teams advancing to the elimination bracket where the first round will be played on Thursday leading to Friday’s quarterfinals and Saturday’s medal match where the gold medal winners will share the $40,000 first-place prize. Men’s elimination will be played on Friday with the final four matches on Sunday.