Walsh Jennings/Ross cruise on as beach enters round of 16

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Brazil's Agatha Bednarczuk celebrates/FIVB photo

Kerri Walsh Jennings and partner April Ross continue to roll through the women’s beach Olympic competition.

Late Friday night, in a match that started about midnight in Rio, they crushed Italians Marta Menegatti and Laura Giombini 21-10, 21-6, to advance to the quarterfinals.

Kerri Walsh Jennings lets April Ross know they won the point/FIVB photo
Kerri Walsh Jennings lets April Ross know they won the point/FIVB photo

Walsh Jennings/Ross will play Sunday against the winner of Saturday’s match featuring Monika Brzostek and Kinga Kolosinska of Poland against Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy of Australia.

Eight more matches are on tap for Saturday in the respective rounds of 16, four for the women and four for the men.

That includes Americans Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena playing Austrians Alexander Huber and Robin Seidl at 11 p.m. Eastern.

Among the key women’s matches will be Isabelle Forrer and Anouk Verge-Depre of Switzerland facing Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst of Germany at 2 p.m. Eastern. The Swiss gave Walsh Jennings and Ross all they could handle in the last match of pool play and have to hope that Forrer bounces back from slamming her head into the sand in the third set on Thursday after which she had to take a medical time out.

Friday’s women’s round of 16

Walsh Jennings/Ross 2, Menegatti/Giombini 0

In the first set, the score was tied 4-4 the Americans bolted to a 17-8 lead.

It was 8-all in the second set before Ross and Walsh Jennings  pulled away again.

“We knew that we wanted to get used to the midnight matches because that’s when the later rounds are going on,” Walsh Jennings said. “And we loved it. We came here with the mindset of ‘put us at six in the morning or put us at midnight,’ we’re going to rock. So we’re used to it and it’s for sure a benefit for us.”

It was the first meeting between the two teams. Italy’s Giombini joined Menegatti days before competition started as Viktoria Orsi Toth was removed because of a failed drug test.

“It has been a crazy seven days, but having Marta by side meant I didn’t feel any nerves,” Giombini said. “I am delighted, but also I am a bit disappointed.”

Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas 2, Fan Wang/Yuan Yue 0

Bednarczuk/Seixas of Brazil, the reigning FIVB world champions, bounced back from a pool-play upset Wednesdsay to make short work of Wang/Yue of China 21-12, 21-16.

The Brazilians had lost in two to Elsa Baquerizo and Liliana Fernandez that gave the Spaniards the Pool B title at 3-0 while the Brazilians went 2-1.

“I think the difference with the last match was our concentration. We started very concentrated and had the same mind set from the first point to the last. We talked a lot and this was the key difference,” Bednarczuk said.

“Every game is a new tournament. When we started today it was a new tournament and when we start our next game, that is a new tournament because if you lose you go home, so we have one chance and just one chance now.”

Agatha and Barbara never trailed against the Chinese and now lead the series 7-1.  The lone Chinese win was a in a 2014 semifinal at the Shanghai Grand Slam. 

“We’ve played four games here, one against a USA team (Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross) and one was from Brazil, so I think we have learned a lot,” Wang said.

Talita Antunes/Larissa Franca 2, Karla Borger/Britta Buthe 0

The top-seeded Brazilans took advantage of the tired Germans, who were playing their third match in 19 hours. Borger/Buthe battled, however, before falling 21-17, 21-19.

It was the first time any pair scored more than 16 against Talita and Larissa.

“I have no words to say what I am feeling, it’s a magical feeling,” Talita said. “I am so happy that I can play in the Olympic Games in Brazil. I am proud with my people, my Brazilian people.”

While Borger and Buthe finish their first Olympic competition in ninth place, Talita and Larissa advance to the quarterfinals where the Brazilians play the winners of a Saturday evening match between Madelein Meppelink/Marleen Van Iersel of The Netherlands and Joana Heidrich/Nadine Zumkehr of Switzerland.

Both Talita and Larissa are playing in their third Olympics. Larissa claimed the bronze medal at the London 2012 Games after placing fifth with Ana Paula Connolly at the Beijing 2008 Games.  Talita was fourth in Beijing with Renata Ribeiro and ninth in London with Maria Antonelli.

“I don’t want to think that it is over and that is what makes me sad,” Borger said. “It was so much fun to compete, it was so different from other events. You hear from people who have played at Olympics and they give you advice and hints of what to do, but no-one can tell you what you feel when you play in front of a crowd like this.”

Ekaterina Birlova/Evgeniya Ukolova 2, Elsa Baquerizo/Liliana Fernandez 0

The Russians, playing for third time in 27 hours, earned it again, as they won in overtime in both sets 23-21, 24-22.

Their rewards for beating the Spanish pair is a matchup Sunday with the reigning world champions, Brazilians Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas.

With both teams appearing in their second-straight Olympics after both placed ninth at the London 2012 Summer Games, Both Birlova/Ukolova and Baquerizo/Fernandez placed ninth in the 2012 Games in London. Now the are tied against each other 2-2.

Coupled with the victory earlier in the day by Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Konstantin Semenov over Jefferson Santos Pereira and Cherif Younousse of Qatar, Russia is now guaranteed a fifth-place in both the men’s and women competition, the country’s best finishes for both genders in the Olympics.

Saturday’s women’s round of 16

Heather Bansley/Sarah Pavan, Canada (5) vs. Jamie Broder/Kristina Valjas, Canada (16)

Isabelle Forrer/Anouk Verge-Depre, Switzerland (10) vs. Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst, Germany (4)

Madelein Meppelink/Marleen Van Iersel, Netherlands (6) vs. Joana Heidrich/Nadine Zumkehr, Switzerland (17)

Monika Brzostek/Kinga Kolosinska, Poland (12) vs. Louise Bawden/Taliqua Clancy, Australia (7)

April Ross/Kerri Walsh Jennings, United States (3) vs. Laura Giombini/Marta Menegatti, Italy (9)

Sherif Younousse of Qater hits against Konstantin Semenov of Russia/FIVB Photo
Sherif Younousse of Qater hits against Konstantin Semenov of Russia/FIVB Photo

Friday’s men’s round of 16

Viacheslav Krasilnikov/Konstantin Semenov 2, Jefferson Santos Pereira and Cherif Younousse 0

With their 21-13, 21-13, 32-minute victory, Krasilnikov/Semenov become the first Russian men’s or women’s Beach Volleyball to advance to the quarterfinals in Olympic competition. 

The previous bests were ninths at the Sydney 2000, Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympics.

“We were up against a tough opponent, but we were very serious before the game. We worked on all elements of our game, setting really good blocks and having good defense. That’s why we are great,” Semenov said.

“All victories for Russians are important. For the history of Russia, we are so far and we have never been in the quarterfinals. It’s a great step for us and we hope it’s not the last achievement for our country.”

Semenov was part of the 2012 ninth-place finishers in London with Sergey Prokopyev.  The pair won one of three pool matches in the 2012 Olympics and were eliminated in the Round of 16 by Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal of the United States. 

The Russians, who upset Reinder Nummerdor and Christiaan Varenhorst of The Netherlands Thursday to win Pool E with a 3-0 record, will play the winners of the Friday-afternoon match between Clemens Doppler/Alexander Horst of Austria and Nivaldo Diaz/Sergio Gonzalez of Cuba.

Nivaldo Diaz/Sergio Gonzalez 2, Clemens Doppler/Alexander Horst 0

Their 21-17, 21-14 victory pretty much got everyone’s attention as the Cubans stunned the Austrians in 37 minutes to advance to the quarterfinals.

Diaz and Gonzalez, playing the opponents for the first time, were behind only twice in the match and that was early in the second set at 1-0 and 2-1.  They closed out the match with a 15-8 run.

The Cubans, who are playing in their second international event outside of their NORCECA confederation, have now won four straight matches on Copacabana highlighted by Pool D victories over highly-regarded pairs from Brazil, Canada and Latvia.

Diaz and Gonzalez have now secured Cuba’s best Olympic beach finish with a guaranteed fifth.

Reinder Nummerdor/Christian Varnhorst 2, Lombardo Ontiveras/Juan Virgen 0

The Dutch pair made short work of the Mexicans 21-18, 21-15 in 38 minutes.

Nummerdor has now advanced to the Olympic beach quarterfinals for the third-straight time. He went in 2008 with Richard Schuill to Beijing, where they finished fifth, and in 2012 to London, where they took fourth.

Paolo Nicolai/Daniele Lupo 2, Adrian Carambula/Alex Ranghieri 0

In a battle of Italian countrymen, Nicolai/Lupo won the first set easily but than had to grind and scramble for the 21-12, 23-21 victory.

Nicolai/Lupo won only once in three pool-play matches and got a berth in the 16-team elimination bracket just 24 hours earlier.

It was also Lupo’s and Nicolai’s first win in two international meetings with their Italian rivals and guaranteed at least a fifth-place finish after the tandem reached the quarterfinals in the London 2012 Games.

Saturday’s men’s round of 16

Alison Cerutti/Bruno Oscar Schmidt, Canada vs. Pablo Herrera/Adrian Gavira, Spain

Pedro Solberg/Evandro Goncalves, Brazil vs. Nikita Liamin/Dmitri Barsouk, Russia

Chaim Schalk/Ben Saxton, Canada vs. Alexander Brouwer/Robert Meeuwsen, Netherlands

Nick Lucena/Phil Dalhausser, USA vs. Alexander Huber/ Robin Seidl, Austria

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