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Åhman/Hellvig (SWE) vs. van de Velde/Immers (NED) - Pool A #15975124

After victories over two of the top teams in the world, the Dutch made it to the quarterfinals in Portugal

Not much could have gone better for Matthew Immers and Steven van de Velde in the first three days of the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Elite16 event in Espinho, Portugal, as besides advancing to the quarterfinals of the tournament held at the Praia da Baía, the Dutch also saw their two rivals for a spot at the Paris Olympics be eliminated.

Immers and van de Velde are one of the 12 men’s teams that advanced to the elimination rounds in Portugal, which will have the Round of 12 and the quarterfinals taking place on Saturday. The women’s tournament also has 12 teams still alive.

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Immers and van de Velde started the tournament as the second-best Dutch team in the Olympic race and were at serious risk of falling to third place after the Espinho Elite16. It all changed in three days, though, as with at least 760 points guaranteed in the event, they will improve their FIVB Olympic Rankings total to a minimum of 8,740, which will put them in first place in the Dutch internal race.

The two took care of business, finishing in first place in Pool A, but also benefited from setbacks of Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeusen, who lost in the qualifier and continue with 8,600 points, and Stefan Boermans and Yorick de Groot, who were eliminated in pool play and now have 8,460.

Immers and van Velde started the tournament with a victory over Norwegians Hendrik Mol and Mathias Berntsen on Thursday and got two huge wins on Friday, topping Swedish Jonatan Hellvig and David Åhman 2-1 (23-21, 23-25, 15-7) and Americans Andy Benesh and Miles Partain also 2-1 (21-15, 16-21, 15-7).

Guaranteed in the quarterfinals, they are set to play the winners of the Round of 12 match between Poland’s Michal Bryl/Bartosz Łosiak and Italy’s Paolo Nicolai/Samuele Cottafava. Another victory will place them in the semifinals, earning the two at least another 140 points in the Olympic race.

Budinger and Evans closer to Paris

Americans Chase Budinger and Miles Evans also took a big step towards the Paris Games on Friday by finishing in first place in Pool D and advancing directly to the quarterfinals in Portugal, where they will face either compatriots Benesh and Partain or Germans Nils Ehlers and Clemens Wickler.

The two had a win and a loss entering the last day of pool play in Espinho, but stepped up to beat Brazilians Andre Loyola and George Wanderley 2-0 (21-19, 21-14) to claim the spot in the quarterfinals.

Budinger and Evans started the Espinho Elite16 with a 240-point lead over compatriots Trevor Crabb and Theo Brunner, who lost in the qualifier, for the second American spot in Paris and now saw their advantage improve to at least 540 points (8,400 to 7,860) with only two tournaments left in the qualification period.

Espinho Elite16 – Match Schedule and Results

Two Australian teams also won their pools and advanced to the quarterfinals in Portugal – Thomas Hodges/Zachery Schubert, who will play Åhman/Hellvig or Brazil’s Evandro Gonçalves/Arthur Lanci, and qualifiers Izac Carracher and Mark Nicolaidis, who wait for the duel between Andre/George and Czech world champions Ondrej Perusic and David Schweiner to know their opponents.

Mäder and Vergé-Dépré remain alive

The women’s event in Portugal saw Tokyo Olympic bronze medalists Joana Mäder and Anouk Vergé-Dépré keep the race for the second Swiss spot in the Games very much open as they advanced to the elimination rounds with a big 2-0 (21-15, 29-27) win over American world champions Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes in their last match of pool play.

Hughes/Cheng (USA) vs. Vergé-Dépré A./Mäder (SUI) - Pool B #15981349

Vergé-Dépré passes during the match against the Americans

With a spot in the Round of 12, the two, who eliminated compatriots and Olympic rivals Esmée Böbner and Zoé Vergé-Dépré on Wednesday’s qualifier, add 140 points to their total and see their opponents a little bit closer, cutting their gap to 320 points (7,900 to 7,580).

Mäder and Vergé-Dépré need to win a medal in Espinho on Sunday to end the week ahead of their compatriots and in order to do that they will need to beat Americans Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss in the Round of 12 and then Brazilians Eduarda ‘Duda’ Lisboa and Ana Patrícia Ramos in the quarterfinals.

Germany’s Svenja Müller/Cinja Tilmman, Spain’s Daniela Álvarez/Tania Moreno and the Netherlands’ Katja Stam/Raisa Schoon took the other three spots in the quarterfinals. The other Round of 12 duels will have Brazil’s Bárbara Seixas/Carol Sagaldo vs. Switzerland’s Tanja Hüberli/Nina Brunner, China’s Chen Xue/Xinyi Xia vs. Brazil’s Tainá Bigi/Victoria Lopes and Italy’s Marta Menegatti/Valentina Gottardi vs. Latvia’s Tina Graudina/Anastasija Samoilova.

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