Prague, Czech Republic, May 24, 2014. Six more European teams made it through from the first to the second elimination round at the women’s FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Prague Open to join the six, which had already qualified for the eighthfinals directly from the pool phase.
Austria’s Katharina Schuetzenhoefer / Lena Plesiutschnig made it to the last 16 and it was the first time in its short World Tour career the young pair made it to the second elimination round. After finishing third in Pool D the 20-year-old Austrians defeated Japan’s Takemi Nishibori / Sayaka Mizoe in straight sets by 2:0 (21-19, 21-13) on one of the outside courts at Stvanice Island.
Plesiutschnig / Schuetzenhoefer have been playing together since 2010. They won silver at the Youth World Championships, gold at the 2011 CEV U20 Beach Volleyball European Championship and bronze at the FIVB U21 last year. While Plesiutschnig made her debut on the World Tour at the Durban Open last December, Schuetzenhoefer was asked to play some grand slams with veteran Barbara Hansel in 2013, which resulted in 9th place at some events.
“But with Lena this is now our best result too”, defense player Schuetzenhoefer said. So far they had reached 17th place in Durban, 25th in Fuzhou and 33rd in Shanghai. “It is really great and it was so much fun to play today.” When the Austrians warmed up for their first round match, thunderstorms hit Prague and the matches were suspended for almost an hour. “But afterwards it was perfect to play,” said Plesiutschnig. “No wind and not as hot as yesterday and the sand was hard so we could really jump”, added her partner.
The Austrians took a four-point lead in the first set, but lost concentration and the Japanese levelled at 17-17. Some smart tactical shots brought them back in the game as they claimed the first set by 21-19. In the second part the Austrian team created a big gap leaping from 11-9 to 14-9 with solid play and good positioning. On their first match point, Plesiutschnig finished the game with a kill block.
“We were really focused on our tactics like our coach told us. We played our best and tomorrow we will see,” she said. Plesiutschnig is looking forward to their second round match against Shanghai champions Laura Ludwig / Kira Walkenhorst from Germany, who came out in the rain to have a look at “the enemy”, as Ludwig put it. Schuetzenhoefer played the Germans twice before with Hansel and lost both times. “It is a very strong team and it will be the first time we play them, but we will try our best. Most of the time we play better against better teams. We like to compete with the stronger ones.”
Asked about their future, Schuetzenhoefer answered that she is not going to play with Hansel anymore. “No, I will continue to play with Lena, because our focus is the Olympics in 2020, maybe 2016. We want to grow together on the World Tour and be one of the top teams in a few years.”
The first hurdle is getting used to the World Tour level. Plesiutschnig said: “It is difficult, but for us it is a little bit easier because Kathi already played on the World Tour last year. It is easier because she has this experience. She tells me not to be nervous, play with fun and fight together. She is the leader, yes.”
“We will see about that in a few years!” Schuetzenhoefer added.
Also winning their first round matches were Rimke Braakman / Jantine van der Vlist from the Netherlands, Erika Nystrom / Emilia Nystrom from Finland, Kinga Kolosinska / Monika Brzostek from Poland and Russian pairs Ekaterina Syrtseva / Alexandra Shiryaeva and Evgenia Ukolova / Maria Prokopeva, as well as two duos from China and Kazakhstan.
The first eighthfinal matches in Prague are scheduled to start at 10:00 local time. The quarterfinals are also on the schedule for Saturday.
Click here for more info on the FIVB Prague Open.