Espinho, Portugal, July 6, 2018 – Teams from Australia, Brazil, Poland and USA qualified for the women’s semifinals at the Espinho four-star stop on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour. On Saturday, Americans Sara Hughes and Summer Ross will play against Australians Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho and Maria Antonelli and Carolina Solberg Salgado of Brazil will face Kinga Kolosinska and Katarzyna Kociolek of Poland in the battles for the two spots in the gold medal match.
On the men’s side, the pool stage of the main draw took place on Friday, with the eight pool winners progressing directly to the last 16 of the tournament. Another 16 duos qualified for the first round of single elimination to stay in contention.
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There were many tough battles that had to be decided in tie-breaker sets, as the men’s main draw got underway on Friday. In fact, Latvia’s Martins Plavins and Edgars Tocs were the only team that managed to go through the pool stage without losing a set. They started their Pool G campaign with a 2-0 (21-18, 21-19) win over Lithuania’s Arnas Rumsevicius and Lukas Kazdailis. In the winners’ match, the Latvians delivered a 2-0 (21-19, 21-15) upset of seventh-seeded John Hyden and Theodore Brunner to top the pool and advance directly to the second elimination round.
“These two wins are really big for us, because we lost the last three games on the World Tour. It’s good that we are back in rhythm and managed to get into the second round. It was very important especially before the European Championship,” Plavins said after their second victory. “I would also like to thank the Latvian fans, who support us here. We are looking forward to playing at least one more good match at this tournament as a minimum.”
30th-seeded Austrians Robin Seidl and Christoph Dressler pulled off a big upset of third-seeded Brazilians Alison Cerutti and Andre Loyola Stein, beating them 2-1 (21-11, 13-21, 17-15) in the first Pool C match. Canada’s Grant O'Gorman and Ben Saxton eventually topped the pool after a 2-0 (21-15, 24-22) win over Seidl and Dressler.
Pool F unfolded with a similar scenario. 27th-seeded Germans Alexander Walkenhorst and Sven Winter managed to get sixth-seeded Brazilians Pedro Solberg and Bruno Oscar Schmidt out of the way, only to lose to Qatar’s Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan 2-0 (21-18, 21-19) in the battle for the first place in the Pool.
Top-seeded Philip Dalhausser and Nicholas Lucena of USA, second-seeded Vitor Goncalves Felipe and Evandro Goncalves Oliveira Junior of Brazil, fourth-seeded Janis Smedins and Aleksandrs Samoilovs of Latvia, fifth-seeded Clemens Doppler and Alexander Horst of Austria and ninth-seeded Anders Berntsen Mol and Christian Sandlie Sorum are the remaining five pairs that won their pools and advanced straight to the second knockout round.
Sara Hughes and Summer Ross, seeded sixth in the women’s competition, became the first semifinalists at Espinho. After losing one of their pool matches on Thursday, they cruised through three straight-setters on Friday to advance to their first World Tour final four as a team. The American pair started their day with a 2-0 (21-15, 21-12) win over France’s Lezana Placette and Alexia Richard, followed up with a 2-0 (21-19, 21-12) shutout of Germany’s Anna Behlen and Sarah Schneider to finish it with another 2-0 (21-19, 21-12) victory over ninth-seeded compatriots Brittany Hochevar and Kelly Claes.
“It feels so good! It feels so amazing! My partner is a stud!” they both said at the same time after qualifying for the semis.
“We are so happy to be going on to the semifinals. Our performance was really great. Yesterday we had a loss, but we didn’t let that defeat us. We had three tough matches today, but we pulled it out!” Hughes added.
Poland’s Kolosinska and Kociolek, seeded 14th, also persevered to win three games on Friday to advance to the semis – 2-0 (21-19, 21-10) against Japan’s Azusa Futami and Akiko Hasegawa, 2-1 (19-21, 21-17, 15-10) against seventh-seeded Taiana Lima and Carolina Horta Maximo of Brazil, and 2-0 (22-20, 21-13) against Germany’s Kim Behrens and Sandra Ittlinger.
Clancy and Artacho Del Solar played only two matches for the day, but they were both hard-fought three-setters against very strong opponents. In the second elimination round, the fifth-seeded Australians mastered a 2-1 (18-21, 21-17, 15-12) come-from-behind victory over second-seeded Brazilians Barbara Seixas De Freitas and Fernanda Alves. In their quarterfinal match, Clancy and Artacho Del Solar delivered one more major upset – 2-1 (21-12, 11-21, 15-9) over Warsaw gold medalists Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson of Canada, seeded third at Espinho and medal winners from their last three World Tour appearances.
Similarly, fourth-seeded Brazilians Maria Antonelli and Carol had to win two tie-breakers in the single elimination rounds to make the semis. In an all-Brazilian clash with young hopefuls Ana Patricia Silva Ramos and Rebecca Cavalcanti Barbosa Silva, they claimed a 2-1 (21-15, 19-21, 15-13) win and followed it up with a 2-1 (21-13, 16-21, 15-8) quarterfinal victory over China’s Fan Wang and Xinyi Xia.