Birthday girl wins twice to top Moscow pool

Moscow, Russia, August 15, 2019 – Legendary American Kerri Walsh Jennings, who celebrates her 41st birthday on Thursday playing at the Moscow four-star stop on the 2019 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour, and her partner Brooke Sweat also celebrated two victories on the sand to become one of eight women’s teams to top their pools and advance straight to the second knockout round.

10th-seeded Sweat & Walsh Jennings started their day with a 2-0 (21-17, 22-20) win over Germany’s Victoria Bieneck & Isabel Schneider and then had to face compatriots Kelley Larsen & Emily Stockman, seeded seventh, in the Pool G final. They took them to three, but Sweat & Walsh Jennings came out on top with a 2-1 (21-19, 14-21, 15-10) victory.

“I really love Moscow! I think it’s the most beautiful city in the whole world. I am so happy to be here playing on my birthday. The only thing missing is my family. We had two wins today against two good teams, but my wish has not come true yet. I can’t tell you what it is. When I make it come true, I‘ll tell you,” said Kerri Walsh Jennings. “It is a beautiful tournament! We are so grateful the federation is putting this on. Brooke and I want to win it. We want to go to Tokyo, so winning in Moscow will help us do that. It felt great on the court today, especially playing another American team. They are so good, they are in the Tokyo fight as well and we respect them very much, so to win was very important. This morning we played a great German team as well, but every team on the Tour is very good. Now we just have to focus on us and keep winning.”

The home crowd at the Luzhniki sports complex was delighted to see Russia’s Ekaterina Birlova & Evgenia Ukolova win their Pool H, going past Greece’s Vasiliki Arvaniti & Panagiota Karagkouni to claim a 2-1 (21-14, 25-21, 15-11) victory and then delivering a 2-0 (21-15, 21-15) shocker to the new European champions, Latvia’s Tina Graudina & Anastasija Kravcenoka, crowned last week here in Moscow. 

“Our rivals were the new European champions, a young team, really great. We were pleased to play with them today.  We tuned up for this game as for a game with real champions. We will prepare for the next games.  All opponents are very serious,” Ukolova commented.

“We are very glad that we were able to show good volleyball,” Birlova added. “We completed our task and took the first place in the pool. We did not show the best result at the European Championship, so we must play with even greater strength and confidence.”

Japan’s Murakami & Koshikawa in action

Japanese wild cards Megumi Murakami & Miki Koshikawa, playing under #28 in the main draw seeding, became the lowest ranked pair to win their pool and book a direct ticket to the round of 16. In their Pool E campaign, they mastered a 2-0 (24-22, 21-18) upset of fifth-seeded Sanne Keizer & Madelein Meppelink of the Netherlands and followed it up with a 2-1 (21-16, 10-21, 15-12) win over Slovakia’s Andrea Strbova & Natalia Dubovcova, seeded 12th.

16th-seeded Marta Menegatti & Viktoria Orsi Toth of Italy overcame two strong Brazilian teams, each in three sets, to take the first place in Pool A. They managed a 2-1 (21-14, 19-21, 15-12) victory over Taiana Lima & Talita Da Rocha Antunes in their first match. In the battle for the top, Menegatti & Orsi Toth persevered for a 2-1 (22-20, 15-21, 15-11) upset of top-seeded Maria Antonelli & Carolina Solberg Salgado.

Second-seeded Agatha Bednarczuk & Eduarda Santos Lisboa, fourth-seeded Ana Patricia Silva Ramos & Rebecca Cavalcanti Barbosa Silva, both of Brazil, and sixth-seeded Americans Kelly Claes & Sarah Sponcil lived up to their status by winning Pools B, D and F, respectively. Czechia’s Barbora Hermannova & Marketa Slukova won Pool C after a three-set upset of third-seeded Nina Betschart & Tanja Hueberli of Switzerland.


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