Lausanne, Switzerland, June 18, 2015 — They came to play were the words of the day Thursday as 12 women’s teams from eight countries won their first two of three round-robin pool play matches during the start of the 32-team women’s main draw at the double-gender $800,000 FIVB St. Petersburg Grand Slam. Being played through Sunday, the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour has returned from Europe for the first time in 2015 as the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour is visiting the United States for the 12th time overall and the state of Florida for the third time.
Winning the first two rounds of women’s pool play matches on the purpose-built site at the popular Spa Beach Park at the Pier on Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg were four teams from Brazil, two from Germany along with one team each from Canada, China, Czech Republic, Italy, Spain and the United States.SUMMER SCHOOL
This week’s FIVB St. Petersburg Grand Slam started with men’s qualifying on Tuesday followed by the start of men’s pool play Wednesday with women’s qualifying Wednesday followed by the start of women’s pool play on Thursday. The men’s quarterfinals will be held Friday, semifinals and medal matches on Saturday and women’s quarterfinals on Saturday with their semifinals and medal matches on Sunday. The tournament format had a one-day qualification tournament to determine the final eight spots in each gender’s 32-team main draw tournaments followed by round-robin pool play and a single-elimination bracket for the final 24 teams. SHOW TIME
In addition to the international broadcast, NBC TV will air live beach action in the USA on Saturday and Sunday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET and on the NBC Sports Network on Sunday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. ET.THE UNBEATEN
Following Thursday’s first two round robin matches in the event’s pool play portion, the 12 teams with 2-0 records in the main draw are the top six-seeded teams along with another six spread out amongst the 32-team field. The undefeated women’s teams Thursday are Brazil’s top-seeded Larissa Franca/Talita Antunes, Brazil’s second-seeded Juliana Felisberta/Maria Antonelli, Brazil’s third-seeded Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas, Italy’s fourth-seeded Marta Menegatti/Viktoria Orsi Toth, Brazil’s fifth-seeded Tiana Lima/Fernanda Alves and Canada’s sixth-seeded Sarah Pavan/Heather Bansley
Also undefeated Thursday were Spain’s ninth-seeded Liliana Fernandez/Elsa Baquerizo, Germany’s 11th-seeded Karla Borger/Britta Buthe, Germany’s 13th-seeded Julia Sude/Chantal Laboureur, Czech Republic’s 14th-seeded Marketa Slukova/Chantal Laboureur, China’s 16th-seeded Fan Wang/Yuan Yue and USA’s 23rd-seeded Jennifer Kessy/Emily Day.smart SANDS I
The biggest seed breakthroughs among the unbeaten teams came from USA’s 23rd-seeded Kessy/Day who defeated two higher seeds to lead their pool. In their first match, the Americans upset Brazil’s 10th-seeded Maria Clara Salgado/Carolina Salgado, 21-11, 22-20 in 42 minutes and came back in the afternoon to upset Germany’s seventh-seeded Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst, 24-22, 16-21 ad 15-13 in a marathon 74-minute match.
In the match against Germany, USA’s Kessy, a 2012 Olympic silver medalist with April Ross, and Day, who are playing in just their fourth tournament as a team, each had two ace services while Day also added three blocks and 26 kills in the match. Kessy was credited as well with one block and 10 kills. In a losing effort, Walkenhorst had one ace, three blocks and 20 kills.smart SANDS II
In another major upset on the first day of pool play, USA’s 31st-seeded Nicole Banagh/Jennifer Fopma rebounded from a two-set morning loss to Brazil’s Bednarczuk/Seixas to overcome Germany’s veteran 15th-seeded Olympians Katrin Holtwick/Ilka Semmler, 21-17, 21-19 in 38 minutes.smart SANDS III
Playing just their ninth FIVB World Tour event as a team with six gold medals in their first eight tournaments, Brazil’s top-seeded Larissa/Talita had another impressive start. First they toppled USA’s 32nd-seeded Brittany Hochevar/Heather McGuire in straight sets, 21-10, 21-18 in 35 minutes and came back in the afternoon to hold off Switzerland’s 17th-seeded Nadine Zumkehr/Joana Heidrich, 21-13, 23-21 in 36 minutes.QUOTABLE QUOTES
After their smart victory over Germany’s Holtwick/Semmler, USA’s Branagh/Fopma both had something good to say about the match and their play.
Branagh, a USA Olympian, commented, “I think the first match against Agatha and Barbara was a little tough for us, but I think we worked out some of the kinks and really pulled it together against Germany. I felt like we had a better rhythm with our defense and we helped each other. You know if we didn't get a perfect pass we got each other up to the net so we could get a sideout. We stayed together the whole time, and got some great plays in there to get us ahead."
Her teammate Fopma said, "I mean we're a new team so we are just trying to learn every play. We can only improve so we're just trying to focus on communication on our side of the net, and like Nicole said we started kind of grooving on defense and that helps. So I think we're just going to try and stay in that pattern and crush it!"FIVB ST. PETERSBURG GRAND SLAM PURSE
The gold medal team in the FIVB St. Petersburg Grand Slam will split $57,000, the silver $43,000, the bronze $32,000 and fourth place $24,000. The men’s semifinals and medal matches and the women’s quarterfinal matches will all be played on Saturday with the women’s semifinals and medal matches on Sunday.USA HISTORY
St. Petersburg is now one of 10 U.S. cities that have hosted an international FIVB beach volleyball event. Others have been Atlanta, Carson, Calif., Chicago, Clearwater, Fla., Hermosa Beach, Calif., Long Beach, Calif., Los Angeles, Miami and New York. The event in Atlanta was the 1996 Olympic Games, the first at which Beach Volleyball was a medal sport.
Through the 2014 event, the United States has hosted a total of 22 FIVB World Tour events (11 men, 11 women) with Brazil leading the medal count in both genders. In the men’s totals after 11 events, Brazil has 11 medals, followed by the USA with 10, Argentina, Norway and Switzerland with two each and with one men’s medal each the USA are Canada, Italy, Poland and Spain. After 11 FIVB World Tour women’s events held in the United States through 2014, Brazil leads the medal parade with 15 total medals followed by the USA with 13, Australia with three and with one women’s medal each in the USA are Germany and the Slovak Republic.MORE IN THE USA
Following this week’s event, the FIVB will return to the USA twice more in 2015 with the $800,000 FIVB Long Beach Grand Slam Aug. 18-23 in Southern California and the $500,000 Swatch FIVB World Tour Season Final in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Sept. 29-Oct. 4.GROWING HISTORY
The FIVB St. Petersburg Grand Slam is the 320th men’s event since the FIVB began men’s competition in 1987 and the 284th FIVB women’s tournament since they started in 1992.