Stavanger, Norway, June 13, 2015 - After a disappointing start to their season with a 17th- and ninth-place in the first two events, 2014 FIVB World Tour champions Juliana Felisberta and Maria Antonelli rebounded from a pool play defeat Thursday to win five-straight matches to capture the women’s gold medal here Saturday at the Stavanger Major.
Playing in the shadows of compatriots Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca the past 11 months, the fourth-seeded Juliana and Antonelli emerged from behind the curtain to win their first “big” title on the FIVB World Tour at the US$800,000 SWATCH Major Series event by defeating Brazilian rivals Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas 2-0 (21-16, 21-15) in 40 minutes.
In defeating the top-seeded Agatha and Seixas for the second-time in three international meetings, Juliana and Antonelli claimed their second FIVB gold medal in 17 world tour starts. In addition, Juliana and Antonelli are now 2-4 in FIVB gold medal matches as they avenged a title setback to Agatha and Seixas in May 2014 at the Puerto Vallarta Open in Mexico.
With Brazil guaranteed its fourth-straight gold medal on the 2015 women’s FIVB World Tour after winning the mid-day semi-finals over teams from The Netherlands and Germany, Juliana and Antonelli shared the $57,000 first-place prize along with earning 800 points toward qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Despite the gold medal setback to square their title match record at 2-2, Agatha and Seixas split $43,000 in winnings and garnering 720 points. The Brazilians, the No. 3-ranked team on the FIVB World Tour behind pairs from Canada, were seeking their second 2015 medal after winning an “open” event three weeks ago in Prague, Czech Republic.
To advance to their sixth FIVB gold medal match, Juliana and Antonelli out-lasted second-seeded Madelein Meppelink/Marleen Van Iersel of the Netherlands 2-1 (19-21, 23-21, 16-14) in the longest women’s match in the Stavanger Major (63 minutes). Agatha and Seixas advanced to the SWATCH Major Series finale with a 2-0 (24-2, 21-16) win in 43 minutes over 12th-seeded Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst.
Meppelink and Van Iersel, who missed an opportunity to play in their third FIVB World Tour finale this season after placing second in events in Switzerland (Lucerne Open) and Russia (Moscow Grand Slam), rebounded in the bronze medal match to score a 2-1 (21-17, 16-21, 15-13) win in 51 minutes over Ludwig and Walkenhorst. The Dutch split $32,000 for third-place and the Germans shared $24,000 for fourth-place.
With the Stavanger Major being the 283rd event on the FIVB World Tour since the start of the women’s competition in 1992, Brazil has now advanced two teams to an international gold medal match 52 times as the South American country takes home its 141st title.
Agatha and Seixas started the Brazilian run of gold medal successes this season by claiming the top spot on the Czech Republic podium four weeks ago in Prague. The past two weeks in Russia and Croatia, Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca captured the gold medals in Moscow and Porec. Due to a leg injury for Talita, the top Brazilian team withdrew from the Stavanger Major Tuesday.
Saturday’s win netted Juliana her 47th FIVB World Tour gold medal as she topped the Stavanger podium for the third time after winning the event twice with Larissa (2006 and 2010). Antonelli won for the first-time in Stavanger as she has 11 international gold medals to her credit. Antonelli and Talita lost the 2010 Stavanger finale to Juliana and Larissa after placing third the previous season when the Norwegian “oil” capital hosted the 2009 FIVB World Championships.
The sixth stop on the 2015 FIVB World Tour calendar for women, the Stavanger Major continues through Sunday with men’s semi-final and medal matches. 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.
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.