Corrientes, Argentina, May 25, 2013—After starting play Saturday in the sun-soaked sand and finishing in the evening under a pleasant Argentinean sky in the spotlight of a magical glowing moon, Netherlands’ Madelein Meppelink/Sophie van Gestel defeated Brazil’s Maria Antonelli/Agatha Bednarczuk to claim the women’s gold medal at the $440,000 FIVB Corrientes Grand Slam double-gender tournament. Men’s semifinals and medal matches will be conclude the tournament on Sunday starting at 2:30 p.m. With the event being held for the first time in Corrientes, the purpose-built site with a 7,500-seat temporary center court stadium was located on the sands of Arazati Beach – Costanera Sur on the banks of the massive Rio Panara.
With a standing room only crowd of nearly 7,500 fans cheering a sport they seldom see in person like it was one of their own favorite sports, Netherlands’ Madelein Meppelink/Sophie van Gestel completed a clean sweep of their tournament, defeating Brazil’s Maria Antonelli/Agatha Bednarczuk, 21-17, 21-19 in 39 minutes.
Capturing the bronze medal for the second straight FIVB World Tour Grand Slam was Brazilian sisters Maria Claria Salgado/Carolina Salgado who held off the comeback attempt by USA’s 2012 Olympic silver medalists Jennifer Kessy/April Ross in three sets, 21-16, 19-21, 15-13 in 56 minutes.
The gold medal team in the FIVB Corrientes Grand Slam will split $33,000, the silver $22,000, the bronze $16,500 and fourth place $12,900.
In the gold medal match, Netherlands’ Meppelink/van Gestel played as flawlessly as they did the entire tournament, earning their seventh straight victory in the event by keeping Brazil’s Antonelli/Bednarczuk off guard enough to pull at the first FIVB championship of their youthful careers. Playing near errorless beach volleyball against another one of the powerful Brazilian teams, Netherlands’ Meppelink/van Gestel held off a comeback bid by the Brazilians when the tied the second set and 18-18 and 19-19 before Meppelink ended the match and set with another picturesque block of a kill attempt by Bednarczuk.
In just their 16th FIVB World Tour event together, the talented young Dutch women earned their first FIVB gold medal and their fourth final four finish. Meppelink, 23, has played in 46 FIVB tournaments all together and van Gestel, 21, has played in 30 FIVB events in her young career.
Elated with their performance in the tournament, Meppelink said after the award’s ceremony, “We are so happy to win the gold, it is our first FIVB Grand Slam gold medal, we played really well. We had tough games during the competition but at the end we could win.”
In the bronze medal match, Brazil’s Salgado sisters jumped out early and often, keeping the pressure on for a fairly quick first set win. USA’s Kessy/Ross, fighters that they are, battled back in the second set and although Brazil’s Salgado’s kept it close, USA’s Kessy/Ross won 21-19. In the third and deciding set, the Salgados stayed in front, leading 9-6 but USA’s Kessy/Ross tied it at 9-9 and took the lead 10-9, before digs, kills and blocks finished the set and match, 15-13.
For Brazil’s Salgados, who have played in 105 FIVB World Tour events as a team, this was their 10th career bronze medal and 15th final four finish. USA’s Kessy/Ross, who have played in 74 FIVB tournaments together, this was their 34th final four finish and fourth fourth-place finish.
Five of the eight players in the final four were 2012 Olympians as USA’s Kessy/Ross won the silver medal at the 2012 London Olympic games, Meppelink/van Gestel finished fifth in London and Antonelli, teamed with Talita Antunes, also finished fifth in London. For these final four teams, this was the 15th final four for the Salgado sisters, fourth for Netherlands’ Meppelink/van Gestel, first for Antonelli/Bednarczuk and 34th final four for USA’s Kessy/Ross, who won the 2009 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships.
The first semifinal Saturday saw Netherlands’ Meppelink/van Gestel overcome Brazil’s Salgado sisters for a second-straight FIVB World Tour final four match. Taking three sets three weeks ago in the Shanghai bronze medal match, Meppelink/van Gestel won their second career meeting with Brazil’s Salgado sisters and again it was in three sets as the Dutch women finally prevailed, 26-24, 18-21, 15-10 in 60 minutes. In the second semifinal, Brazil’s Antonelli/Bednarczuk played strong from behind to defeat USA’s Kessy/Ross, 15-21, 21-14, 15-12 in 49 minutes. In the tiebreaker third set, the match was tied at 9-9 and 10-10, before Brazil finished off the victory.
To earn the place in the final four with three of the four quarterfinals lasting three sets Saturday morning, Netherland’s Meppelink/van Gestel defeated Germany’s Karla Borger/Britta Buthe in straight sets, 21-13, 21-19 in 34 minutes while their semifinal opponent Brazil’s Salgado sisters advanced by working three sets to defeat Germany’s surprising Julia Grossner/Victoria Bieneck, 19-21, 21-11, 15-4 in 47 minutes. To advance to their second semifinal matchup, Brazil’s Antonelli/Bednarczuk upset the Germany’s veteran duo Katrin Holtwick/Ilka Semmler, 22-24, 21-19, 16-14 in 55 minutes while their next opponent, USA’s Kessy/Ross had their hands full as well before pulling out another three-set victory, this one over Spain’s Liliana Fernandez/Elsa Baquerizo, 21-13, 11-21, 15-12 in 52 minutes.
The FIVB World Tour will be off next week as 10 regular FIVB men’s and women’s teams compete in the FIVB World Cup Final special event in Campinas, Brazil. The FIVB World Tour resumes June 11-16 with the $440,000 FIVB Hague Grand Slam.