Gibb/Patterson eliminated, Walsh Jennings/Ross advance, big matches ahead Thursday

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Kerri Walsh Jennings isn't this happy with the AVP today/FIVB Photo

Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson, the sixth seed, are out of Olympic-medal contention after losing Wednesday.

Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross had to really battle, but they won in three and will play in the quarterfinals.

The other two American Olympic beach teams — Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat and Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena — play Thursday and the women have to win.

Gibb and Patterson were knocked out by No. 7 Adrian Gavira and Pablo Herrera  of Spain 21-19, 16-21, 15-7.

Spain just looked more comfortable in this matchup, always spiking high and hard, while the USA looked out of sorts in the swirling wind. The second set was dominated by Gibb, scoring three consecutive aces and a block to go up 7-5. Gibb blocked two balls go up 16-12, and suddenly the Spaniards were vulnerable to the down-themiddle serve, giving up aces to Patterson at 18-13 and  Gibb 20-15. Gibb/Patterson won on a Herrera service error.

But in set three it was all Spain. Patterson’s jumbo sailed wide to give Spain a 4-2 lead, then Patterson followed it up with a cut shot on a difficult set that never cleared the net. Herrera then took over, blocking the Americans for 9-4, 10-4, and 13-6.

Walsh Jennings won Pool C over No. 23 Isabelle Forrer and Anouk Verge-Depre of Switzerland  21-13, 21-23, 15-12 that saw the Swiss team deal with an injury to Forrer.

Walsh/Ross dominated early, but in set two, Forrer stayed home on defense in Ross’ angle, and was able to make key digs and stay in the match, with 13 ties and three lead changes. The Swiss eventually stole set two on a free ball that dribbled off the tape and handcuffed Walsh.

“They definitely picked up their game and seemed that they made some tactical changes and put up a really good block and played a really good defense,” Ross said.

In set three, at 10-9, Forrer suffered an apparent head/neck injury, banging her head against the sand in a digging attempt. She was able to resume after being treated, but her equilibrium appeared to be off.

“She fell down to take a line shot and I think she felt a little dizzy and saw some stars,” Verge-Depree said. “She went to see the medical staff and I hope she gets well soon.”

At  11-10, Verge-Depre, seemingly compensating for Forrer’s injury, attempted to take a ball on Forrer’s side and shanked it, giving Walsh/Ross the margin of victory. Walsh/Ross finished it with a terrific rally, with Forrer’s shot sailing long.

Thursday’s action includes Fendrick and Sweat, seeded 13th, against No. 24 Evgeniya Ukolova and Ekaterina  Birlova of Russia, who will be playing on her 29th birthday.

This is a must-win for both teams. The winner will advance (most likely to a lucky loser playoff where the winner earns an elimination-round berth), while the loser’s Olympic aspirations will be done. Both teams are 0-2 in pool. Fendrick/Sweat are ahead in game record at 1-4 compared to 0-4 for Birlova/Ukolova. The Russian point ratio leads the USA at .798 to .761

Fendrick/Sweat and Birlova/Ukolova have split their four meetings the past two years. Fendrick/Sweat won their most recent meeting in Hamburg. Both of the American wins were in three sets, while the Russian 2-0 both times.

“We’ve gone back and forth with them, have won and lost against them,” Sweat said. “They’re very athletic girls, and we’re going to have to be really good on our side and siding out against them. I think we can get them in trouble with some really good shots and mixing up our defense against that team for sure gets them in trouble. That match will be really fun to play with all the different defensive things we can do to try to score.”

Three keys to win for Fendrick/Sweat:

1. Convert digs into points. Sweat agrees: “For me it’s pushing my shoulder and trying to be more aggressive on offense, especially in transition and terminating balls. It’s great digging balls, but I’m going to get that first dig and put the ball away and end the play. That’s been my focus.”

2. Serve aggressively to neutralize the powerful Russians. The Russian spikes are far more lethal than their shots, so keeping the Russians off the net will ease the American’s defensive burden significantly.

3. Ball control, ball control, ball control. The current weather forecast calls for a 15 mph wind at game time, which should favor the American’s superior ball-handling skills.

Immediately following, No. 3 Dalhausser/Lucena face No. 10 Paolo Nicolai/Daniele Lupo (Italy)

Dalhausser/Lucena have already advanced to the elimination round, Nicolai/Lupo will likely advance, but need to win to be certain to avoid a “lucky loser” match. The two top third-place teams go straight into the elimination rounds, while the bottom four third-place teams must play a single match to get in.

The two pairs are no strangers to each other, having played three times this year, with Dalhausser/Lucena having a 2-1 head to head advantage. Dalhausser/Lucena also won their most recent meeting a few weeks ago in Gstaad 21-18, 21-19.

“The Italians that are in our pool, Nicolai and Lupo have been in five finals this year,” Lucena said. “It is going to be a battle. It really is.”

Dalhausser will be especially motivated, as Nicolai/Lupo spoiled his London Olympics party in 2012, defeating Dalhausser and partner Todd Rogers and they finished in ninth place.

Nicolai is one of the top blockers on the tour, with an impressive vertical reach. He is one of the short list of blockers that plays at the same altitude as Dalhausser. Lupo is a wiley defender with excellent shots. The Italians are one of the most dangerous teams on the tour, and could very well pull off a medal appearance.

“It’s really going to come down to Nick siding out over time,” NBC analyst Dain Blanton said. “He is getting a lot of serves. He is such a great player, has such a quick arm swing.”

Look for both teams to serve the defenders, Lucena and Lupo, to avoid the massive firepower of Dalhausser and Nicolai. The forecast 15 mph winds should favor the Americans’ superior serving and setting. Look for this match to be a battle, with plenty of multiple point runs for both teams. Grab the popcorn and settle in, this will be a great match at 3:30 Eastern.

Wednesday’s matches

Lilliana Fernandez and Elsa Baquerizo of Spain celebrate/FIVB Photo
Lilliana Fernandez and Elsa Baquerizo of Spain celebrate/FIVB Photo

No. 7 Louise Bawden/Taliqua Clancy (Australia) slid past No. 6 Madelein Meppelink/Marleen Van Iersel (Netherlands) 27-25, 18-21, 16-14 to advance to the elimination bracket. Australia committed only five serving errors to the Netherlands’ 13, and Australia made 24 digs to the Netherlands’ 10.

No. 11 Elsa Baquerizo/Liliana Fernandez (Spain) advanced to the elimination bracket when they surprised No. 2 Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas (Brazil) 21-17, 22-20. Both teams served aggressively with 13 aces but just one block between them.

No.19 Jefferson Santos Pereira/Cherif  Younousse (Qatar) defeated No. 18 Alexander Huber/Robin Seidl (Austria) 18-21, 21-19, 15-12. The Austrians kept it close, but the Qataris were more physical.

No. 15 Fan Wang/Yuan Yue (China) handled No. 22 Mariafe Artacho Del Solar/Nicole Laird (Australia) easily 21-16, 21-11, as tough serving by the Chinese confounded the Australians.

No. 1 Alison Cerutti/Bruno Oscar Schmidt (Brazil) beat. No. 12 Adrian Carambula/Alex Ranghieri (Italy)  21-19, 21-16 but it may have been costly. It was a gutsy performance by Alison, who went down with a painful ankle sprain at 8-9 in the first game.

No. 2 Alexander Brouwser/Robert Meeuwsen (Netherlands) beat No. 11 Bartosz Losiak/Piotr Kantor (Poland) 21-19, 21-19. The Dutch led largely wire to wire, never leading by more than five points, but the Poles were never able to close the gap. 

No. 19 Olaya Pazo/Norisbeth Agudo (Venezuela) defeated No. 18 Natalia Alfaro/Karen Charles (Costa Rica) 21-16, 21-19 with an effective side-out game.

No. 23 Barbora Hermannova/Marketa Slukova (Czech Republic)  defeated No. 14 Ana Gallay/Georgina Klug (Argentina) 13-21, 21-19, 15-8, after being down a set and 8-4 in the second.

No. 23 Nikita Liamin/Dmitri Barsouk (Russia) upset No. 14 Markus Bockermann/Lars Fluggen (Germany) 21-14, 21-17, executing superbly. Liamin’s block kept the Germans frustrated while Barsouk played solid defense.

No. 13 Clemens Doppler/Alexander Horst (Austria) defeated No. 24 Josh Binstock/Sam Schachter (Canada) 21-19, 16-21, 15-8. Doppler/Horst will finish 2-1, while Binstock/Schachter finish 0-3.

“Today was just a big fight,” Horst said. “We’ve never played beach volleyball so late and in the dark and rain. It was so tough for us because we woke up at 9 o’clock in the morning and the days gets really, really long when you sit in the apartment and it is 5 o’clock and you think ‘still seven hours to go.’

“Today I don’t think we played our best beach volleyball, but we were fighting till the end and I’m so happy we won.”

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