Stavanger, Norway, June 8, 2015 - For the fifth-straight week, the women’s FIVB World Tour is playing Beach Volleyball in Europe as the planet’s best players return to the Norwegian “oil” capital for the 12th-time with the 2015 event being the second stop on the SWATCH Major Series.
The US$800,000 Stavanger Major will feature both men’s and women’s competition with action being held on the Beach Volleyball courts constructed in the city center of Stavanger at Vagen Harbor. The four women’s Country Quota matches for Brazil, Germany, Thailand and the United States were played here Monday with the winners earning spots in Tuesday’s 32-team qualification tournament.
The women’s 32-team Main Draw will start Wednesday with the finals set for Saturday where the defending champions will not be in the field due to a shoulder injury to three-time Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings, who won last year’s Stavanger stop with April Ross.
The men’s Country Quota matches will be played Tuesday followed by a Wednesday qualifier and Thursday’s opening Main Draw rounds of pool play. The men’s semi-finals and medal match will be played Sunday. The winning teams in each gender will split the $57,000 first-place prize along with netting 800 points used in qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Advancing to Tuesday’s Stavanger Major women’s qualifier were the tandems of Fernanda Alves/Taiana Lima of Brazil, Victoria Bieneck/Julia Grossner of Germany, Julaluk Radarong/Manerat Udomchavee Thailand and Jennifer Fopma/Summer Ross of the United States.
As usual, the Brazilian Country Quota matches proved to be “intense” Monday’s match was a reversal of fortunes for Fernanda and Lima as the pair had lost in the Brazilian playoff the last two weeks to Carolina Horta and Liliane Maestrini. Monday, Fernanda and Lima took out revenge by defeating their compatriots 2-0 (21-17, 21-15) in 37 minutes. Last season in The Netherlands, Fernanda and Lima captured FIVB World Tour gold medal in The Hague.
“Intense” also for the Germany playoff as Bieneck and Grossner defeated Chantal Laboureur and Julia Sude 2-0 (21-17, 21-17) in 44 minutes. The two teams have now played in the Country Quota rounds the last three weeks with Bieneck and Grossner holding a 2-1 edge after Monday’s win.
As the host nation, Norway has three women’s teams pre-entered into the main draw and a fourth tandem attempting to qualify for the “money” rounds Tuesday. The Norwegian main draw teams are Janne Kongshavn/Victoria Faye Kjolberg, Cindy Treland/Janne Pedersen and Ingrid Lunde/Vilde Solvoll. The fourth team for the qualification tournament was decided in a playoff Monday with Hanne Haugen Aas\Benedicte Maaseide, Siv Skjong\Oda Ulveseth and Ane Guro Hjortland\Sunnima Helland Hansewinning vying for a spot in the preliminary rounds.
When the women’s Main Draw starts Wednesday, the “featured” team will be Brazilians Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca. Talita and Larissa have won their first two FIVB World Tour starts this season at the Moscow Grand Slam and the Porec Major to increase their gold medal winning streak to six. The pair won their last four international events in 2014 Austria, Poland, Brazil and Argentina.
Talita and Larissa missed two (China and South Africa) of the last three FIVB events in the 2014 and did not enter the first three women’s 2015 tournaments in China (Fuzhou), Switzerland (Lucerne) and the Czech Republic (Prague) before starting this campaign in the Russian capital.
Larissa has topped the Stavanger podium twice (2006 and 2010) with Juliana Felisberta, who is playing this season with Maria Antonelli. Larissa and Juliana have five Stavanger medals to their credit with silvers in 2005 and 2009, and a bronze in 2011. Talita and Antonelli lost the 2010 gold medal match to their compatriots and placed third in 2009 when Stavanger hosted the FIVB World Champions.
American pairs have won eight of the 11 women’s events in Stavanger with Brazilians occupying the first spot on the podium three times. One of the two “classic” women’s gold medal matches in Stavanger had Vasiliki Arvaniti and Vasso Karadassiou of Greece upsetting Larissa and Juliana in the 2005 finale. It was Greece’s only gold medal finish on the FIVB World Tour.
The second Stavanger “classic” was at the 2009 FIVB World Championships when Ross and Jen Kessy upset Larissa and Juliana in the gold medal match that saw both sets go into overtime (30-28 and 23-21, 58 minutes). Both Arvaniti (Maria Tsiartsiani) and Kessy (Emily Day) are playing in this week’s event with different partners.
Following this week’s SWATCH Major Series event in Norway, 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.