Moscow, Russia, June 3, 2017 - For the 95th-time in 320 FIVB World Tour events since the start of internationally-sanctioned play for women in 1992, Brazil will meet the United States for a gold medal match after pairs from the South and North American countries won two matches each here Saturday evening in the US$150,000 Beach Volleyball event.
While the Brazilian gold medal entrant is not a surprise since it’s Brazilian Olympians and top-seeded Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca, the American finalists of 11th-seeded Summer Ross and Brooke Sweat was an unexpected after the pair rebounded from an opening pool play setback Thursday to win five-straight elimination matches to reach Sunday’s medal rounds.
The last three American elimination wins for the “Summer Sweat” partnership were over pairs from Germany starting with a 2-0 (21-19, 21-13) victory in 27 minutes Friday afternoon over reigning Olympic champions and second-seeded Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst to advance to Saturday’s quarter-finals.
After eliminating 20th-seeded qualifiers Karla Borger/Margareta Kozuch 2-1 (14-21, 21-19, 15-12) in 43 minutes Saturday morning to advance to their second-straight “final four” in only their second FIVB World Tour event together, Summer and Sweat netted their third-straight win over a German tandem with a 2-1 (21-15, 19-21, 17-15) victory in 50 minutes over 19th-seeded Victoria Bieneck/Isabel Schneider.
After the two teams split the first two sets, Bieneck and Schneider gained control of the deciding set at the mid-way point and held a 14-12 edge. After Summer and Sweat tied it at 14s, the Germans regained the lead and served the third-time for the match. The Americans responded to challenge to score the last three points to net the semi-final win.
“We had our ups and downs, obviously we started really strong,” said Sweat after the game. “But then they cleaned up the second set. I am glad we stuck together and found a way to win.”
As for advancing to the gold medal match in Moscow, Sweat said it was “unexpected since we had not competed since Fort Lauderdale, back in February. We had just been training and training. We came here and lost our first match. But we knew we could play better than we what we did that first day. So we have just been working on that. And we're excited!”
Being played at the Vodny Stadium Beach Sports Centre, Talita and Larissa won the All-Brazilian semi-final with a 2-1 (23-21, 21-18, 15-10) victory in 43 minutes over fourth-seeded Agatha Bednarczuk/Eduarda "Duda" Lisboa. Earlier Saturday, Talita and Larissa posted a 2-0 (21-19, 21-17) quarter-final win in 32 minutes over 12th-seeded Louise Bawden/Taliqua Clancy of Australia.
With Brazilian partner Larissa Franca (left) watching, Talita Antunes (center) hits against compatriot Agatha Bednarczuk.
Talita and Larissa, who are playing in their 20th FIVB “final four” in 30 World Tour starts together since July 2014, will be competing in their third-straight gold medal match in Moscow with a podium-topping performance in 2015. The Brazilians started the 2017 season by winning the gold medal match at the SWATCH Major Series stop in Fort Lauderdale where Talita and Larissa defeated Agatha and Duda in the Florida final.
Sunday’s bronze medal participants won their opening match Saturday as Agatha and Duda advanced to their third-straight “final four” in three FIVB starts together with a 2-1 (15-21, 21-17 15-8) win in 43 minutes over third-seeded Chantal Laboureur/Julia Sude of Germany. Competing in the upper half of the 24-team elimination bracket, the Bieneck/Schneider eliminated 15th-seeded qualifiers Maria Antonelli/Carolina Salgado of Brazil 2-0 (21-15, 24-22) in 36 minutes.
With the FIVB Russian capital event also featuring men’s play, Saturday’s schedule concluded with the semi-final matches to set the lineup for Sunday's medal matches. The winning duos in each gender’s competition will share the $10,000 first-place prizes. As for the 95th Brazil vs. USA women’s finale, the American has won 51 times.
Following the Moscow stop, the FIVB World Tour takes a week off before resuming play June 15-18 for a “three-star” $150,000 event in The Netherlands at The Hague. Highlighting the 2017 international calendar for men and women Beach Volleyball players will be the $1-million FIVB World Championships July 28 through August 6 in Vienna, Austria and the $800,000 SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals August 23-27 in Hamburg, Germany. Overall, there are 15 men’s and 19 women’s events on the $5.335-million FIVB World Tour schedule.