The Hague, The Netherlands, June 17, 2017 - Although Olympic qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games is still two seasons away, the formation of new Beach Volleyball pairs are beginning to take shape for the next quadrennial with two of the new pairings making news here Saturday by winning two matches each to advance to the women’s gold medal finale at the US$150,000 Dela Beach Open.
With the top eight-seeded duos being eliminated each round starting Friday morning, the women’s title match Sunday at the FIVB World Tour event features 15th-seeded qualifiers Maria Antonelli/Carolina Salgado of Brazil against 17th-seeded Joana Heidrich and Anouk Verge-Depre of Switzerland. The winning team will share the $10,000 first-place prize.
Both teams are unbeaten in the competition with Heidrich/ Verge-Depre 5-0 while the Brazilians are 8-0. Antonelli and Carolina had to play two extra rounds with two country quota matches Tuesday before securing a spot in the Dela Beach Open “money” rounds with a qualifying victory Wednesday via forfeit by a Russian team.
Brazil's best in The Hague Saturday are Carolina Salgado (left) and Maria Antonelli.
The success by the Swiss women was duplicated by a men’s pair from the “land-locked” European country as Marco Krattiger and Nico Beeler also won two early matches Saturday to advance to men’s “final four”. It marks the second-time a women’s and men’s team from Switzerland has advanced to the semi-finals at the same FIVB World Tour stop with the first being in 2012 at the Rome Grand Slam.
Heidrich and Verge-Depre, who had their Rio 2016 Olympic partners retire from the sport at the end of season, are competing in only their third FIVB World Tour event together. After placing 17th in their first two starts together at FIVB stops in the United States and Brazil, the Swiss pair have won five-straight matches over higher-seeded pairs with victories over No. 1, 3, 4 and 5.
With wins over Rio Olympic champions and third-seeded Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst of Germany Friday afternoon, Heidrich and Verge-Depre deposed of fifth-seeded Summer Ross/Brooke Sweat of the United States 2-0 (21-17, 21-16) in 36 minutes to open play Saturday followed by a 2-1 (24-26, 21-17, 18-16) semi-final win in 62 minutes over fourth-seeded Agatha Bednarczuk/Eduarda "Duda" Lisboa of Brazil.
The semi-final win was Heidrich and Verge-Depre second win over a Brazilian pair as the Swiss posted a 2-0 (23-21, 21-17) “modified” pool play win in 39 minutes over top-seeded Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca, who placed fourth at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and captured two gold medals this season at FIVB stops in the United States and Russia.
“We are excited and thrilled with our play this week,” said the 25-year old Verge-Depre, who finished ninth at the Rio Summers with Isabelle Forrer while Heidrich placed fifth with Nadine Zumkehr after being eliminated in a three-set Copacabana thriller with Talita and Larissa.
“We did not get frustrated after placing so low in the first two events this season,” said the 25-year old Heidrich. “We have been training hard and improving with each session. So far, so good with our development since Moscow. Whomever we play Sunday, it will be a tough match. It great to reach the finals and are thrilled that we have been successful against some talented and experienced teams.”
Antonelli and Salgado, who are bidding to become only the second women’s team to win a FIVB gold medal after advancing to the Main Draw via country quota/qualifying, earned a spot in the finals by besting 10th-seeded Melissa Humana-Paredes/Sarah Pavan of Canada 2-0 (21-19, 21-16) in 39 minutes.
Playing in only their second FIVB World Tour event together with a fifth-place finish two weeks ago in Moscow, Antonelli and Carolina opened play Saturday morning by eliminating 11th-seeded Louise Bawden/Taliqua Clancy of Australia 2-0 (21-17, 23-21) in 40 minutes. The Brazilians have won 14 of 16 matches this season with both setbacks to German pairs, including Ludwig and Walkenhorst in Moscow.
Following The Hague stop, the seventh double gender stop on the 2017 FIVB World Tour calendar, the international circuit takes a week off before resuming play with SWATCH Major Series stops in Croatia (Porec, June 27-July 2) and Switzerland (Gstaad, July 4-9).
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.