Much to the delight of the partisan home country crowd, Mexico capped off a scintillating day of pro beach volleyball by joining teams from Germany, Italy and Latvia in the men’s final four Saturday at the double-gender US$150,000 FIVB Puerto Vallarta Open, the third event on the 2014 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour calendar.
Saturday’s men’s schedule will have the semifinals, bronze medal match and gold medal finale. Also on Friday, the women play their first elimination round featuring the second and third-place finishers in each pool, the round of 16 and then ending the day will be the quarterfinal matches on the picturesque purpose-built complex on Playa Camarones.
Earning spots among the men’s final four teams in the tournament are Mexico’s top-seeded Lombardo Ontiveros/Juan Virgen, Latvia’s second-seeded Aleksandrs Samoilovs/Janis Smedins, Germany’s eighth-seeded Eric Koreng/Finn Dittelbach and Italy’s 14th-seeded brothers Paolo Ingrosso/Matteo Ingrosso,
In the first two quarterfinal matches, Latvia’s Samoilovs/J. Smedins defeated China’s 18th-seeded Cheng Chen/Jian Li, 21-11, 21-15 in 34 minutes and Germany’s Koreng/Dittelbach stopped Chile’s fourth-seeded cousins Marco Grimalt/Esteban Grimalt, 21-15, 21-19 in 42 minutes.
In the final quarterfinals of the day, Italy’s P. Ingrosso/M. Ingrosso stopped USA’s fifth-seeded Todd Rogers/Theodore Brunner, 21-18, 21-14 in 40 minutes and the home country favorites Mexico’s Ontiveros/Virgen took 58 minutes and two overtime sets to finally eliminate Australia’s 28th-seeded Sam Boehm/Cole Durant, 22-20, 18-21 and 16-14.
After their quarterfinal losses late on Friday afternoon, China’s Chen/Li, Chile’s M. Grimalt/E. Grimalt, USA’s Rogers/Brunner and Australia’s Boehm/Durant leave Puerto Vallarta with official fifth-place finishes and $3,375 per team in prize money.
After their quarterfinal victories, meeting in Saturday morning’s first semifinal will see Latvia’s Samoilovs/J. Smedins meeting Germany’s Koreng/Dittelbach followed by Italy’s P. Ingrosso/M. Ingrosso battling with Mexico’s popular Ontiveros/Virgen on the Playa Camarones center court.
Both 12-year FIVB veterans, Latvia’s Samoilovs/J. Smedins, who teamed up last year on the advice of their parents and achieved the FIVB World Ranking No. 1 spot, have played 16 FIVB World Tour events together with eight final four appearances including three gold medals. In the first two events this year, the Latvian duo has two final fours including a silver medal last week in Shanghai.
A veteran of 12 FIVB seasons, Koreng has only played six FIVB tournaments with Dittelbach and the pair has one final four last year in Anapa, Russia. Koreng has one FIVB career gold medal, 2010 in Stavanger, Norway.
In the other final four matchup, Italy’s Ingrosso twins have played on the FIVB World Tour for 10 years and this will be their first final four appearance. They are also attempting to help Italy win three consecutive FIVB World Tour gold medals as the first two tour stops this year in China (Fuzhou and Shanghai) were both won by Paolo Nicolai/Daniele Lupo.
Mexico’s Ontiveros/Virgen have both played in FIVB World Tour events for more than seven years, but together this is their eighth event and this is the first final four recorded by a team from Mexico. Their highest previous finish was a ninth place that they earned this year in Fuzhou.
Following their hard-fought three-set victory over the Australians as the sun was setting over the glistening Pacific Ocean, Ontiveros said, “I have to be honest. During the last set my head was about to explode. I wasn’t thinking at all, I was trying to set the ball and I just couldn’t and Juan was telling me to calm down and just to play how I know to play. I think the support of this guy (Virgen) helped me to get through those mind blowing moments and I’m thankful for all the people that were cheering for us and helped us to stay positive and encouraged to the end.”
Virgen added, “This was definitely one of the toughest matches we’ve ever played as a team. We were trying to keep our heads in the game. The Aussie guys brough a good game and it was a hard fight to the very end. We are proud to be the first Mexican team in an FIVB final four.”
The FIVB Puerto Vallarta Open is the 300th FIVB men’s event since the FIVB began play in 1987 and the 263rd FIVB women’s tournament since each started play in 1992.
The second of 10 FIVB Open events in 2014, the FIVB Puerto Vallarta Open has men’s action running from Tuesday through Saturday and women’s competition running from Wednesday through Sunday. The tournament format has a one-day qualification tournament in to determine the final eight spots in each gender’s 32-team main draw tournaments followed by round-robin pool play and a single-elimination bracket for the final 24 teams. The men’s semifinals and medal matches will be held Saturday while the women’s semis and medal matches will be played on Sunday at the purpose-built stadium at Puerto Vallarta’s Playa Camarones.
The gold medal teams in each gender in the FIVB Puerto Vallarta Open will each split $11,000, the silver $8,000, the bronze $6,000 and fourth place $4,500. The men medal matches will be held on Saturday and the women’s medal matches will be held on Sunday.
The Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) international tour is back in Mexico for the first time since 2006 for its first event in Puerto Vallarta being held on Playa Camarones adjacent to the Sheraton Buganvilias Resort and Convention Center. The FIVB World Tour has had eight previous tour stops in Mexico. Acapulco hosted double-gender events in 1999, 2005 and 2006 and Rosarito hosted one double-gender tour stop in 2000.
Mexico is also hosting the Inaugural FIVB Beach Volleyball U17 World Championships this year in Acapulco (July 15-20).
Based in Lausanne, Switzerland as the international governing body for the Olympic sports of Beach Volleyball and Volleyball, the 2014 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour calendar features a record purse of US$10.2 million with a season that extends from late April to mid-December competing at 21 venues in 18 countries. This year’s FIVB World Tour includes a record 10 FIVB Grand Slam events, the inaugural Grand Slam Finale and 10 FIVB Open Tournaments throughout the world, helping expand the door for development of the sport even further.
The 10 FIVB Open tournaments in 2014, seven double-gender, two men only and two women only, have $150,000 total purses for the double gender events and $75,000 for the single-gender competitions.