Russians rebound

Stavanger, Norway, June 11, 2015 - After failing to defend a gold medal in their home country two weeks ago to place 25th in the Moscow Grand Slam, Russians Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Konstantin Semenov have rebounded with better play highlighted with a ninth-place last week in Croatia and starting this week with two pool play wins here Thursday in the US$800,000 Stavanger Major.

The second of three SWATCH Major Series events in 2015, the Stavanger Major featured both men’s and women’s pool play matches Thursday as the FIVB World Tour stop continues through the weekend.  The women’s “final four” matches will be played Saturday with the men’s semi-final and medal contests are set for Sunday.

Seeded 21st in the Stavanger Major, Krasilnikov and Semenov posted a pair of three-set wins over teams from the United States and Brazil to lead Pool E with a 2-0 record entering Friday’s play where the Russians need a win over 28th-seeded Isaac Kapa and Christopher McHugh of Australia to clinch the group.  The winner of each of the eight pools earns a “bye” for Saturday’s first-round of elimination.

All four matches in Pool E were three-setters as Krasilnikov and Semenov scored a 2-1 (17-21, 21-16, 17-15) win in 54 minutes over 12th-seeded Sean Rosenthal and Stafford Slick of the United States.  To end the day, the Russians handed legendary Brazilians and fifth-seeded Emanuel Rego and Ricardo Santos a 2-1 (17-21, 21-12, 15-8) setback in 41 minutes.

The other groups where one team has the only unbeaten record are Pools B, G and H.  Second-seeded Grzegorz Fijalek and Mariusz Prudel of Poland posted two-set wins over pairs from Norway and France Thursday and can clinch the top spot in Pool B Friday with a win over 15th-seeded Tri Bourne and John Hyden of the United States.

In Pool G, 10th-seeded Clemens Doppler and Alexander Horst of Austria lead the group after defeating pairs from Switzerland and Germany.  The Austrians play seventh-seeded and Moscow finalists Evandro Goncalves and Pedro Salgado of Brazil Friday with the winner of that match in position to win the group out-right.

Norway’s only win Thursday left 25th-seeded Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak of Poland as the only undefeated pair in Pool H.  Geir Eithun and Iver Horrem, who lost their first match Thursday to the Poles, scored a 2-1 (21-16, 20-22, 15-12) win in 48 minutes over 24th-seeded Theo Brunner and Nick Lucena of the United States.

Brunner and Lucena, who had to qualify for the Stavanger Major Main Draw Wednesday along with the Poles, upset ninth-seeded Josh Binstock and Sam Schachter of Canada earlier in the day and have an opportunity to play for the pool leadership when the Americans play Kantor and Losiak Friday.  After winning the silver medal last week in Porec, the Canadians lost their second match Thursday to the Poles.

Pools A, C, D and F each have two teams tied for the group leaders.  Pool D is the most interesting as it features the two teams that have topped the podiums in Russia (Adrian Gavira/Pablo Herrera of Spain in Moscow) and Croatia (Alexander Brouwer/Robert Meeuwsen of The Netherlands in Porec).  Gavira and Herrera hold a 4-1 edge in the series with the reigning world champions as the Spaniards defeated Brouwer and Meeuwsen in The Hague last July in the last meeting between the two teams.

With the FIVB World Tour returning to the Norwegian “oil” capital for the 15th-time on the Vagen Harbor courts, this week’s gold medal teams will share the $57,000 first-place prize along with earning 800 points that will count towards the qualification for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

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.


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