Swiss women rule in Sochi Open pool play

Sochi, Russia, September 10, 2015 – Switzerland advanced two women’s teams straight into the second elimination round at the FIVB World Tour Sochi Open in Russia. Both third seeded Isabelle Forrer and Anouk Vergé-Dépré and fifth seeded Nadine Zumkehr and Joana Heidrich booked their third straight win in pool play on Thursday.

Although neither of the teams has been on a World Tour podium yet, the Swiss are getting stronger and more stable lately, 30-year old Zumkehr said.

“We have a really good programme and our federation supports us a lot. And it starts to pay off, already last year, and it’s nice to see that we are stable on this level now. So let’s fight for a Swiss medal here in Sochi.”

Zumkehr and Heidrich defeated China’s Wang/Tang (21-7, 21-14) and Latvia’s Lece/Ozolina (24-22, 21-14) on Wednesday and booked another 2-0 (21-13, 21-18) win over Austria’s Stefanie Schwaiger and Barbara Hansel in a direct match for top position in the pool on Thursday.

“I think we started with a really good game against China. We won clear”, 23-year old Heidrich said. “The second game was so-so with some up and downs. But we won, so that was really important for us. And today we played another good game. In the first set the service and side-out was stable. In the second we made some small mistakes, that’s why they came closer, but in the end we won.”

After a week off due to a small injury Zumkehr and Heidrich feel fit. Zumkehr: “After a break it’s important to feel good and healthy. And that is ok now, so that gave us a lot of energy and we are entering the next round with a lot of confidence.”

Forrer (33) and Vergé-Dépré (23) booked wins over Latvia’s Sorikina/Jursone (21-16, 21-14) and Spain’s Ribera/Fernandez (21-15, 21-19) and defeated another Spanish team, Angela Lobato and Soria, in their final pool play match on Thursday: 21-11-22-20.

“We are very happy with these results”, Forrer said afterwards. “We were the number one seed in the pool and then you always have to live up to the expectations, but also perform well. We struggled sometimes but now we are really happy that we won.”

Vergé-Dépré added: “It’s not always easy when you know you can win, when you kind of have to win according to the seeding. Right now we are really happy we made it. Because we put pressure on ourselves to do this. So in the next games we will have to take it point-by-point again and set-by-set and then we hope for a medal, but it’s not the time yet to speak about it.”

A podium place would be very welcome in a long season with a fifth place at the St Petersburg Grand Slam and the European Championships as best finish, Forrer admitted.

“We were already playing quite ok in the beginning of the season and when we found our rhythm we kept on performing better and better. Now we kind of feel that the season is long. Because, like we counted yesterday, we played fourteen tournaments in eighteen weeks. So that is quite a bit. But winning the pool helps to save one more game and we try to keep up the spirit and push our body to the limit.”

Olympic ranking

Both teams include the end of season Opens in their programme for a reason: the Olympic qualification. On the provisional ranking Zumkehr and Heidrich are placed 13th and Forrer and Vergé-Depré are hugging the bottom position.

“We are playing the Opens to move up in the Olympic ranking and we hope to have some good results in the next three Opens to have a good chance to compete in Rio”, said Vergé- Dépré.

“It’s a difficult decision to play these Opens or not”, said Zumkehr. “Because everyone knows it’s way less points than the Grand Slams, but it’s the Olympic qualification and we want to use the chance to earn points for the Olympic ranking. Many good teams are here to do so as well, so we will see what happens. We are in good shape and we don’t feel that the season should already be ended. So that’s why we decided to play.”

“First I was really surprised to see the Olympic rings next to our name, because we had lots of ups and downs this season”, Heidrich added. “So it is a nice feeling that we are still in and that we have a chance to go to the Olympics next year. That’s why we fight and play these Opens to make our dream come true.”

While Rio would be Heidrich’s first Olympic appearance, Zumkehr finished ninth at the 2012 London Olympics with the retired Simone Kuhn. “It feels good to see the Olympic rings but we really want to see them at the end of June next year. It’s still a long way and not all the teams played twelve events yet. But it’s still good to see it. To see how it would look like.”

Other pool winners

Russia’s top seeded Evgenia Ukolova and Ekaterina Birlova also topped their pool with straight wins, as did Italy’s Marta Menegatti and Viky Orsi Toth (2nd) and China’s Wang Fan and Yue Yuan (4th).

The other pool winners are Russia’s Ekaterina Syrtseva and Yulia Abalakina (11th), Czech team Marketa Slukova and Barbora Hermannova (7th) and USA’s Summer Ross and Lane Carico (8th).


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