Fuzhou, China, April 23, 2015 – Russia’s Konstantin Semenov/Viacheslav Krasilnikov add a third win to top their group as men’s pool plays comes to a close at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Fuzhou Open 2015. The first FIVB tournament of the season also opens the Olympic qualification window for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Brazil.
In its third consecutive year, the FIVB Fuzhou Open is the first double-gender FIVB Open event of the 2015 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour calendar with a prize purse of $150,000.
In Semenov/Krasilnikov’s final pool match they beat USA’s Todd Rogers/Slick Stafford and the win places them top of pool B allowing them to enter directly in round two of the single elimination tournament on April 24.
Three in a row
The first set began quickly with both Semenov/Krasilnikov and beach volleyball Olympic veteran Rogers and new partner Slick racking up the points. Semenov’s 2.08m frame at the net began to gain the advantage as the Russians edged ahead. Excellently executed set play by Semenov/Krasilnikov made the game appear as if it would soon be over, but Rogers/Slick were never far away.
With two very different styles of volleyball on display, each produced results and each proved a challenge for the opposition. The second set was heading again in Semenov/Krasilnikov’s favour, but Rogers' solid experienced play and Slick’s work at the net brought the score even at 16-16.
Russia maintained their strength in the final stages and careful Russian ball control claimed the last point and concluded Semenov/Krasilnikov’s third straight win in Fuzhou 2-0 (21-17, 21-19).
“We’re feeling very good, we got first place in the group. It’s our first tournament this year and I’m very happy with the condition of my team. We have good tactics with our coach, so good everything.
“It was a hard game, Rogers is a good player, Slick has not played as long with FIVB so we’re very happy with the result,” said Krasilnikov.
In the lead up to the 2015 season Semenov/Krasilnikov had great preparation working with last year’s Fuzhou Open gold medallist Nicolai Lupo from Italy.
“We’ve been working very hard in preparation. We’ve had three months working in Spain and Italy. We trained with a very good team in Italy, I had a good sparring partner with Nicolai Lupo. I was training two weeks ago with Nicolai and it was good to prepare us for this tournament.
“I think with this play for me and my partner today, we can go to the final. We want to get in the final,” said Krasilnikov.
In Pool B, Rogers/Slick also progress to the knockout stages at the Fuzhou Open, along with Iver Andreas Horrem/Geir Eithun from Norway.Lucena/Brunner top pool
USA’s Nicholas Lucena/Theodore Brunner got together again at the end of last year competing in the Mangaung Open, finishing just outside the final four. In their final pool match, the US pair played Kotsilianos Georgios/Zoupani Nikos from Greece who had achieved a similar result in the South African tournament.
The first set saw good skill at the net from the Greek men, but calm confidence from Lucena/Brunner kept the US team ahead all the way. Brunner’s consistently accurate setting gave way to Lucena and the second set again belonged to the USA. Refusing to go without a fight, Kotsilianos managed to save match point, but an unfortunate tip into the net meant the win belonged to Lucena/Brunner 2-0 (21-16, 21-16).
“We’re feeling good, we’re still trying to adjust but we’re getting there. For the first tournament of the year I think we’re doing alright and it’s been fun so far,” said Lucena.
“The match was good. That Greek team - I’ve seen them play a lot, I’ve always been impressed with them so I knew we had to come out hard otherwise they were going to win the pool. So it was a good match, they played well, we played a little better,” said Brunner.
“Our preparation has been going long, we’ve been non-stop since November because we played South Africa in late December so we just kept going throughout. We’ve been anxious and ready to play a tournament. I think it’s been good coming out here, not a lot of teams are here - but for us, it’ll be a good kick start to the season,” said Lucena.
“There will be a lot of top match–ups in every round so we need to come out and be ready to play every match tomorrow,” said Brunner.
Lucena/Brunner finish top of Pool C after winning each of their three matches and progress to the knockouts along with Kotsilianos/Zoupani and Australia’s Cole Durant and Casey Grice.
The Fuzhou Open is held at the purpose built venue in the city’s Mianjiang Riverside Park. China has hosted a total of 49 FIVB World Tour events and the second Chinese stop on the 2015 calendar will be the double-gender event FIVB Xiamen Open scheduled for September 22 to 27.
The gold medal teams in each gender at the FIVB Fuzhou Open will each split $11,000, the silver $8,000, the bronze $6,000 and fourth place $4,500. The men’s medal matches will be held on Saturday and the women’s medal matches will be held on Sunday.