Former world champions vie for Olsztyn main draw berth

Olsztyn, Poland, July 19, 2017 - With the 2017 FIVB World Championships starting in nine days, two former winners of the prestigious title were competing against each other here Wednesday with the winner advancing to the Main Draw at the US$300,000 Warmia Mazury Olsztyn Open.

Three-time Olympic and world champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and her sixth-seeded partner Nicole Branagh met 2013 world champion Chen Xue and her 11th-seeded Chinese teammate Xinxin Wang in the second elimination round Wednesday with the Americans posting a 2-0 (21-13, 21-9) win in 27 minutes.

Walsh Jennings was meeting Xue, a two-time Olympian and Beijing 2008 bronze medal winner, for the 19th-time on the FIVB World Tour.  With five of those matches being for international gold medals, Walsh Jennings now holds a 13-6 edge in the series.

During Walsh Jennings’ third successful attempt for a gold medal at the 2012 Summer Games, she and Misty May-Treanor defeated Xue and Xi Zhang in the London semi-finals.  In the London finale, Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor defeated compatriots Jen Kessy and April Ross for the gold medal while Xue and Zhang dropped the bronze medal match to Larissa Franca and Juliana Felisberta of Brazil.

Returning to the Crooked Lake (Lake Ukiel or Krzywe Lake) venue for the third-straight season, eight women’s pairs from eight countries qualified for the Warmia Mazury Olsztyn Open “money” rounds Thursday with opening “modified” pool play matches being played on four courts behind the behind the Hotel Omega.

Other teams advancing from Wednesday’s qualifier were fourth-seeded Ana Gallay/Virginia Zonta of Argentina, fifth-seeded Jolien Sinnema/Joy Stubbe of The Netherlands, seventh-seeded Niina Ahtiainen/Ida Sinisalo of Finland, eighth-seeded Ieva Dumbauskaite/Monika Povilaityte of Lithuania, 15th-seeded Tatyana Mashkova/Bakhtygul Samalikova of Kazakhstan, 16th-seeded Mariafe Artacho/Phoebe Bell of Australia and 19th-seeded Tatyana Mashkova/Bakhtygul Samalikova of Kazakhstan.

This week’s FIVB World Tour stop is the final event prior to the 11th edition of the FIVB World Championships where play begins July 28 in Vienna.  A total of 48 men’s and 48 women’s teams will be competing in the $1-million event with the women’s medal matches August 5 and the men’s finales August 6 in the Austrian capital.

While the women play two rounds of “modified” pool play Thursday with the top three teams in each group advancing to Friday’s elimination rounds, the men’s schedule features one round of cluster play.  The Warmia Mazury Olsztyn Open, a four-star event on the 2017 FIVB World Tour calendar, concludes Sunday with the medal matches as the winning teams will share the $20,000 first-place prizes.


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