Long Beach, Calif., USA, August 20, 2015 - Defending ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball champions April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings out-lasted a team from Italy to win their third-straight pool play match here Thursday to earn a first-round “bye” when elimination bracket play begins Friday on the TrueCar Court at Alamitos Beach.
Seeded eighth in the 32-team Main Draw for the US$800,000 FIVB World Tour event, Ross and Jennings posted a 2-0 (22-20, 23-21) win in 44 minutes over ninth-seeded Marta Menegatti and Viktoria Orsi Toth of Italy to win Pool H. It was the ninth international meeting between the two teams with Ross and Walsh Jennings winning six matches.
Menegatti and Orsi Toth had won the previous two matches with the Americans, including a forfeit win over Ross and Walsh Jennings in the Russian Grand Slam earlier this season. The forfeited match was in the elimination rounds as Walsh Jennings had dislocated her right shoulder earlier in the Moscow competition in pool play.
“The Italians have played us tough,” said Walsh Jennings, who is playing in her first FIVB World Tour event since dislocating her right shoulder five weeks ago in the Gstaad Major Series event in Switzerland. “I am glad that we were able to withstand their late charge in the second set as it is nice not to be playing in the first-round of elimination tomorrow.”
Ross and Walsh Jennings will play the winner of an All-Switzerland match featuring 20th-seeded Isabelle Forrer/Anouk Verge-Depre against 21st-seeded Joana Heidrich/Nadine Zumkehr. Forrer and Verge-Depre hold a 2-1 edge over their compatriots in FIVB World Tour matches. Ross and Walsh Jennings have never played Forrer and Verge-Depre and hold a 2-1 edge over Heidrich and Zumkehr.
Reigning world champions and top-seeded Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas (Pool A) joined Brazilian compatriots Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca (Pool B) in winning groups Thursday. Agatha and Barbara finished second to Ross and Walsh Jennings in the 2014 ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball as the Americans won the gold medal match 2-0 (21-17, 21-17) in 37 minutes.
Two Germans teams also captured group titles Thursday, including newly-crowned European champions and sixth-seeded Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst of Germany (Pool F) and 14th-seeded Katrin Holtwick/Ilka Semmler (Pool C). Ludwig and Walkenhorst won the last women’s FIVB World Tour event three weeks ago in Yokohama, Japan.
Other group winners Thursday were fourth-seeded Heather Bansley/Sarah Pavan of Canada (Pool D), fifth-seeded Madelein Meppelink/Marleen Van Iersel of The Netherlands (Pool E) and seventh-seeded Louise Bawden/Taliqua Clancy of Australia (Pool G).
With the men also completing pool play Thursday, Friday’s schedule will feature five elimination rounds. The men will play three rounds with Friday’s schedule ending with four quarter-final matches. The women will play two elimination rounds Friday with their quarter-finals Saturday.
Saturday’s schedule concludes with both the men’s and women’s semi-final matches with Sunday’s slate featuring the four medal matches. The winning teams in both genders will split the $57,000 first-place prizes. The ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball is the second of two events in the United States this season that are part of the qualifying process for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
The first 2015 American Olympic qualifier was held in mid-June at St. Petersburg, Fla. Prior to the St. Petersburg Grand Slam, the last Olympic Beach Volleyball qualifying event in the United States was staged in September 2003 at Carson, Calif.
Following the ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball, the final Grand Slam event on the 2015 FIVB World Tour will be played August 25-30 in Olsztyn, Poland. The “test” event for the Rio 2016 Olympics will be staged on September 2-6 at exactly the same location for the Summer Games’ Beach Volleyball competition on Copacabana Beach.
Prior to returning to the United States for the SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (September 29-October 4), the international circuit will stage “open” tournaments in Russia (Sochi, September 8-13) and China (Xiamen, September 22-27).