Prague, Czech Republic, May 25, 2014. An all-European final four emerged at the inaugural women’s FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Prague Open. The semifinal line-up features a team from the Czech Republic, one from Austria and two German pairs.
The first semifinal at 10:00 local time on Sunday will be an all-German affair with Laura Ludwig / Kira Walkenhorst facing Katrin Holtwick / Ilka Semmler. At 11:00 the home team Kristyna Kolocova / Marketa Slukova take on Doris Schwaiger / Stefanie Schwaiger from Austria. The bronze medal match and the final are scheduled for 14:00 and 15:00. All matches at the 8,000-seat Stvanice Stadium on Sunday will be televised.
The penultimate day of the Prague Open came with a few surprises, like the elimination of China’s Chen Xue / Xinyi Xia and Brazil’s Maria Antonelli / Juliana Felisberta. But most of all the home crowd was delighted with the success of the top seeded Czech team.
With the support of the huge Czech crowd Kristyna Kolocova / Marketa Slukova defeated Kinga Kolosinska / Monika Brzostek from Poland by 2:0 (21-16, 21-14) in the quarterfinal on Saturday to reach the final four.
“It is only the second time for us that we make the semifinals on the World Tour and in front of a home crowd, it is crazy, I cannot believe it,” said Kolocova. Last year they were in the final four at the Berlin Grand Slam, but missed out on the podium.
Earlier on Saturday the Czech pool winners booked a solid 2-0 (21-17, 21-13) win over Russia’s Ekaterina Syrtseva / Alexandra Shiryaeva in the second elimination round. The quarterfinal against Poland was a rematch of Thursday’s pool game, which had also ended in favor of the Czechs. This time though Kolocova / Slukova had to come from behind in both sets.
“I think Maki was not awake yet,” Kolocova joked. “No, actually we always have to find our rhythm first. We are not a team that can kill from the beginning, we first try to find out how they will defend against us, what they will do, how to serve.”
In the second set the 26-year-old defense player served strong and led her team from 17-14 to 19-14. Slukova’s block then took the game to match point and Kolosinska’s wild hit brought the Czechs the victory. The Czech fans at the Stvanice stadium went wild.
“We love it, we both do,” Kolocova exclaimed. “In the first game in the pool it was a bit stressful because we did not know what to expect, but since then we are just so happy to have the whole crowd behind us. They are helping a lot. We enjoy it and we really feel the support.”
On Sunday they will face Austria’s Doris and Stefanie Schwaiger in the semifinal. The Czechs lead the head-to-head by 5 to 3. “It is always a tricky game against them. We are good friends and actually trained with them two weeks ago in Austria. It is always tough, but it is the semifinals, we will try our best and see what we make of it.”
After a 2:0 (21-19, 21-15) win over Russia’s Evgenia Ukolova / Maria Prokopeva, the Schwaiger sisters had a tough quarterfinal match against Germany’s Karla Borger / Britta Buethe, which they won by 2:1 (17-21, 21-19, 15-12). The Prague Open is the Austrians’ first event since Doris injured her groin in October.
“This was a really big surprise for us,” Stefanie said about reaching the final four. “Also because they are the world championship silver medalists and a very strong team. We changed tactics after we lost the first set, because we did not have good defense. We served a bit better and made fewer mistakes.”
The Germans, who have not been in a final four since they claimed silver at the World Championship last July, lost their focus and were not able to break through the Austrian defense anymore.
In the other, all-German, semifinal Laura Ludwig / Kira Walkenhorst will meet Katrin Holtwick / Ilka Semmler for the fifth time in two years. Shanghai champions Ludwig / Walkenhorst won all previous encounters.
Ludwig / Walkenhorst defeated Austria’s Katharina Schuetzenhoefer / Lena Plesiutschnig in the second round by 2:0 (21-17, 21-15), before they faced Canada’s Heather Bansley / Sarah Pavan in the quarterfinal. The 9th-seeded Canadians, who surprisingly knocked out China’s Chen Xue / Xinyi Xia earlier, were no match to the Germans. Ludwig / Walkenhorst put the pressure on from the start and within 25 minutes 2:0 (21-11, 21-8) appeared on the scoreboard.
“We were really focused, we served really well and had a good block-defense strategy. So they did not have that many options,” said Ludwig.
Their semifinal opponents also showed great form. In the eighthfinals, Holtwick / Semmler dismissed Finland’s sisters Erika Nystrom / Emilia Nystrom by a 26-minute 2:0 (21-9, 21-14). In the quarterfinal clash with Brazilian stars Maria Antonelli / Juliana Felisberta they emerged victorious with a final 2:0 (21-12, 24-22). The second set was very close. Brazil even had a set point at 22-21, but the Germans pulled through and finished the game at their third match point.
“In the first set, it was a really a great game. We wrecked them a lot, especially with our serve,” Holtwick said. “We knew they would come strong in the second and they did. So it was a tough fight, but if you believe in yourself, in your serve and in your partner, at the end everything works out.”
Click here for more info on the FIVB Prague Open.