Fort Lauderdale, USA, February 10, 2017 - It’s a whole new season for the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour, but the Fort Lauderdale Major will have a taste of the Rio 2016 Olympics on Saturday in the quarterfinals of the first event of the year.
Bronze medallists Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross will be across the net from Agatha Bednarczuk for the first time since Brazilians Agatha and Barbara Seixas beat the Americans in the Olympic semifinals last summer.Quick links - Beach volleyball:
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Now teamed with Fernanda Alves, Barbara will take on compatriots Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca, who also reached the semifinals in Rio de Janeiro.
Top-seeded Walsh Jennings and Ross advanced with a 2-0 (21-18, 21-14) win over Russians Ekaterina Birlova and Nadezda Makroguzova on the stadium court at Fort Lauderdale Beach Park.
“I’m extremely happy with how we’re playing right now for such an early tournament and such an abbreviated preseason so far,” Ross said. “We just need to take care of our bodies and minds and show up ready to go each time.
“It’s really intense, but it’s nice in a way I wasn’t expecting because you can show up here and give it your all with no worry about going on to next week and doing it again. You know you get to rest afterward. Sometimes during the summer it’s kind of a grind.”
Agatha is now playing with 18-year-old prodigy Eduarda “Duda” Lisboa, and they advanced following a tense 2-1 (17-21, 21-18, 17-15) victory over American Olympian Lauren Fendrick and 21-year-old college star Sara Hughes.
Agatha is well aware of what awaits in the quarterfinals.
“A hard game, of course,” she said with a laugh. “I played against the girls the last time in the Olympic Games and it was a beautiful game, but I’m starting with Duda. It will be a difficult game, but they need to win so we can play more relaxed. This is good for our team, because it’s a new team, a new season, our first World Tour tournament.
“Kerri and April changed their sides on the court and this is new for us, so we need to study them.”
The winner of that match will face either Chantal Laboureur/Julia Sude of Germany or Brazilians Josemari Alves/Liliane Maestrini.
“It’s just amazing,” Laboureur said. “Last year we were not so many times in the quarters or higher, but it’s great to start like this. We just want to keep it going.”
Sude had 10 aces in the Germans’ 2-0 (21-16, 21-12) victory over American qualifiers Brittany Hochevar and Emily Day, who had won three consecutive matches before finishing in ninth place.
Josi/Lili reached the quarterfinals with a 2-1 (17-21, 21-19, 16-14) victory over Barbora Hermannova and Marketa Slukova of the Czech Republic.
It’s been only two weeks since Larissa/Talita and Barbara/Fernanda squared off in the semifinals of the Joao Pessoa event on the Brazilian domestic tour. Larissa/Talita scored a 2-1 (13-21, 21-17, 15-9) victory, but lost to Agatha/Duda in the final, 2-1 (18-21, 22-20, 16-14).
“All the Brazilians know each other a lot,” Talita said after their 2-0 (21-18, 21-16) win over Sophie van Gestel and Madelein Meppelink of the Netherlands. “We just played against them and it was hard and I think it will be hard again.”
The lowest remaining seed in the tournament is the Czech Republic team of Kristyna Kolocova/Michala Kvapilova, who advanced with a 2-1 (17-21, 22-20, 15-7) victory over seventh-seeded Brazilians Elize Maia/Taiana Lima.
They’ll take on the hard-charging new American team, Brooke Sweat and Summer Ross. They moved to 4-0 in the tournament with a 2-0 (21-13, 21-18) victory over Russia’s Anastasia Barsuk and Evgenia Ukolova.
“We’ve gotten better every match,” said Sweat, the 2016 Olympian with Fendrick. “This one was a little shaky with the wind and the Russians served really tough. They made us work hard for our sideouts.
“We’re meshing really well. We’re a new team, but we’re just flowing really well together right now.”