Hamburg, Germany, August 20, 2017 - When play in the $800,000 Swatch Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour Finals presented by Vodafone begins here Wednesday at Rothenbaum Stadium, Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai will enter as Europe's top men's team in the competition after the Italians captured their second-straight European continental championship Sunday in Jurmala, Latvia.
The third annual Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals starts Wednesday and will feature 12-team fields for both men and women. The competition opens with pool matches followed by elimination bracket play. The winning teams in each gender’s competition will share the $100,000 first-place prizes. The women’s finale will be Saturday and the men’s final four matches next Sunday.
The second-seeded Lupo and Nicolai, who won Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games silver 12 months ago, scored a 2-0 (21-16, 23-21) win in the gold medal match against fourth-seeded Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins of Latvia. The gold medal win was Lupo and Nicolai's eighth in 10 international meetings with the Latvians.
Sunday's victory also secured Lupo and Nicolai their third European championship in the past four years as the Italians defeated Samoilovs and Smedins 2-1 (21-19, 14-21, 17-15) in the 55-minute title match in 2014 at Cagliari, Italy.
After placing ninth in the 2015 European finale in Austria, Lupo and Nicolai regained the continental title in 2016 by defeating Konstantin Semenov and Viacheslav Krasilnikov of Russia 2-1 (21-15, 13-21, 15-12) in the 43-minute gold medal match at Biel, Switzerland.
While Lupo and Nicolai were the top men's finisher for teams scheduled to compete this week in the World Tour Finals, Kristyna Kolocova and Michala Kvapilova of the Czech Republic and Chantal Laboureur and Julia Sude of Germany were the top Hamburg women's entrants placing in Jurmala.
The fifth-seeded Kolocova and Kvapilova defeated the top-seeded Laboureur and Sude 2-1 (21-17, 15-21, 15-11) in a 45-minute semifinal match to start play Sunday before the Czech pair dropped the gold medal match later in the day to ninth-seeded Nadja Glenzke and Julia Grossner of Germany 2-1 (15-21, 21-17, 15-11) in 43 minutes.
In Saturday's quarterfinals, Glenzke and Grossner ousted reigning Olympic and world championships Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst 2-1 (17-21, 21-14, 19-17) in a 57-minute All-German affair.
In the women's bronze medal match, Laboureur and Sude bounced back with a 2-1 (17-21, 26-24, 15-8) win in 48 minutes over 24th-seeded Kinga Kolosinska/Jagoda Gruszczynska of Poland.
In North American, Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals participant Brandie Wilkerson of Canada placed second in the AVP stop in southern California at Manhattan Beach as she and her 15th-seeded American partner Nicole Branagh dropped a 2-0 (21-18, 21-18) decision to top-seeded Emily Day and Brittany Hochevar in a 70-minute match carried “live” by NBC nationally.
The two wins led to Day and Hochevar's third AVP title this season with the previous victories in southern California at May's Huntington Beach and July's Hermosa Beach stops. Day played in the 2017 FIVB World Championships earlier this month in Vienna as she replaced Kerri Walsh Jennings as Branagh's partner.
Wilkerson and Branagh advanced to the finals after eliminating Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals participants Lauren Fendrick and April Ross 2-1 (16-21, 21-19, 15-10) in a 66-minute semifinal match. Wilkerson will play in Hamburg with Heather Bansley as the Canadians will be competing in their second-straight Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals after placing ninth last September in Toronto, Canada.
In the AVP men’s finale, third-seeded Phil Dalhausser defeated fourth-seeded Trevor Crabb and Sean Rosenthal 2-1 (23-25, 21-18, 15-10) in 75 minutes for the first-place prize. Earlier Sunday in a semifinal match between Swatch FIVB World Tour entrants, Dalhausser and Lucena defeated sixth-seeded Theo Brunner and Casey Patterson 2-1 (15-21, 21-16, 15-11) in 52 minutes.
Dalhausser now has won six Manhattan Beach Open titles to tie him for the third-most with Mike Dodd and Tim Hovland. Only Beach Volleyball legends Karch Kiraly (10 titles) and Sinjin Smith (seven) have won more Manhattan Beach crowns.