Stavanger, Norway, June 12, 2015 - It will be Europe versus Brazil for the gold medal at the US$800,000 Stavanger Major as two women’s teams from the South American country won quarter-final matches here Friday along with pairs from Germany and The Netherlands.
Claiming “final four” spots for the Brazil were top-seeded Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas and fourth-seeded Juliana Felisberta/Maria Antonelli. Agatha and Seixas won two matches over Canadian pairs to advance to the semi-finals while Juliana and Antonelli won three matches Friday over teams from Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Germany.
The German entrant into the semi-finals is 12th-seeded Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst while the Dutch will be represented by second-seeded Madelein Meppelink/Marleen Van Iersel, the reigning European champions. Both teams were 2-0 Friday with the Ludwig/Walkenhorst partnership ousting pairs from the Slovak Republic and Brazil.
Meppelink and Van Iersel, who placed 25th at the Porec Major in Croatia last week after placing second a week earlier in Russia, had successes against Spanish and Australian teams. One of the Dutch losses in Porec was to 15th-seeded Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy and Meppelink and Van Iersel rebounded by defeating the Australians twice this week.
Saturday’s first semi-final will have Ludwig and Walkenhorst challenging Agatha and Seixas in the first FIVB World Tour meeting between the two teams. While the Brazilians will be playing in their second “final four” this season, Ludwig and Walkenhorst will be competing in their first semi-final in 2015. Both pairs have seven “final four” appearances to their credit as a team.
After a rough start to the season with a ninth in Russia and a 17th last week in Croatia, Juliana and Antonelli will be play in their eighth semi-final after being one of the more consistent teams in 2014 when the Brazilians topped the FIVB World Tour rankings in their first campaign together.
The Dutch, who lost two of three matches to Juliana and Antonelli last season, started the 2015 season with back-to-back silver medal finishes in Switzerland (Lucerne Open) and Russia (Moscow Grand Slam). Overall, Meppelink and Van Iersel will be competing in their sixth “final four”.
Agatha and Seixas advanced to the “final four” by ousting 11th-seeded Heather Bansley and Sarah Pavan of Canada 2-0 (21-19, 21-15) in 37 minutes. A few minutes later, Ludwig and Walkenhorst prevented a Brazil-Brazil semi-final by eliminating the 14th-seeded Salgado sisters (Carolina and Maria Clara) 2-0 (21-14, 22-20) in 37 minutes.
The Dutch secured the third semi-final spot by defeating Bawden and Clancy 2-0 (22-20, 21-19) in 39 minutes. On Thursday, Meppelink and Van Iersel scored a 2-1 (21-10, 26-28, 15-12) victory in a 54-minute pool play match. Last week in Croatia, Bawden and Clancy defeated the Dutch in group action before claiming the Porec Major bronze medal.
Juliana and Antonelli led from the start against Karla Borger and Britta Buthe to oust the 13th-seeded Germans 2-0 (21-14, 21-9) in 35 minutes. Borger and Buthe, who had defeated Juliana and Antonelli in pool play Thursday in three sets, were looking for their second medal this season as the Germans defeated Meppelink and Van Iersel for the Lucerne crown.
With the Stavanger Major being the third “big” event on the 2015 FIVB World Tour calendar, three of the four teams in Saturday’s “final four” will be looking for their biggest “payday” as a team. Ludwig and Walkenhorst will be seeking their second “big” title after winning the Shanghai Grand Slam last season for their only gold medal together.
The Brazilian pairs only titles were in FIVB “Open” events while the Dutch will be seeking their first world tour gold medal together. Agatha and Seixas captured their first gold medal together last season in Mexico (Puerto Vallarta) while topping the podium three week ago in Prague, Czech Republic.
Juliana, who won 45 FIVB World Tour gold medals with Larissa Franca, won her first international title with Antonelli last season in Xiamen, China. Antonelli is no stranger to the top spot on the FIVB podium with 10 gold medals to her credit, including eight with Talita Antunes and one with Vanlida Leao.
With the Stavanger Major being the 283rd women’s event on the FIVB World Tour, Brazil has now advanced a team to an international semi-final for the 250th-time. A pair of semi-finals wins for the South American Saturday will also guarantee Brazil its 141st FIVB World Tour gold medal. Since the start of the women’s international circuit, Brazil has had two teams in a FIVB finale 51 times. As for the Europeans, Germany has six FIVB World Tour women’s title and The Netherlands four.
The sixth stop on the 2015 FIVB World Tour calendar for women, the Stavanger Major continues through Sunday with Saturday’s schedule featuring the women’s semi-final and medal matches along three rounds of men’s elimination contests. The gold medal teams will share the $57,000 first-place prize along with garnering 800 points towards their qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. The men’s “final four” contests will be staged Sunday.
Following this week’s SWATCH Major Series event, the FIVB World Tour crosses the Atlantic Ocean for an event in the United States in St. Petersburg, Fla. The June schedule ends with the start of the world championships in The Netherlands. Being played at four sites, world championships start (June 26) and end (with the medal matches July 4 for women and July 5 for men) in The Hague.