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USA Beach Volleyball Update:

From Beijing to Rome, eight U.S. beach volleyball teams have racked up the frequent-flier miles this weekend to get from the first FIVB Grand Slam of the season to the FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Championships presented by smart.

The world’s top 96 teams (48 men’s and 48 women’s) from 34 countries will compete in the eighth beach volleyball world championship played under the current format, which is being held for the first time in Rome on June 13-19. Teams will compete on purpose-built sand courts at the historic Parco del Foro Italico in the heart of the Eternal City.

The U.S. women’s beach volleyball teams look particularly strong heading into Rome, as they come off gold- and bronze-medal winning performances in Beijing.

Misty May-Treanor (Santa Monica, Calif.) and Kerri Walsh (San Jose, Calif.), who won their first gold medal since reuniting as a team in 2011 in Beijing, won three straight world championships in 2003, 2005 and 2007. In between, they won Olympic gold medals in 2004 and 2008.

When they were not playing in 2009, Jen Kessy (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.) and April Ross (Costa Mesa, Calif.), who took the bronze on Saturday in Beijing, went ahead and won the title.

Meanwhile, the top-ranked Brazilian team of Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca, who were eliminated in the first round in Beijing, may nevertheless think it is their turn to win the title after defeating May-Treanor and Walsh at the opening tournament of the 2011 FIVB World Tour.

On the men’s side, Phil Dalhausser (Ormond Beach, Fla.) and Todd Rogers (Santa Barbara, Calif.) are the top seeds, but had to pull out of the semifinals in Beijing after Dalhausser suffered a sprained ankle. The team will still make a go of it in Rome. It won the world title in 2007 and finished third in 2009, winning the 2008 Olympic gold medal in Beijing in between.

With the injury to Dalhausser, the new favorites may be the second-seeded Brazilian team of Alison Cerutti and Emanuel Rego, who have won the last two events on the FIVB World Tour, including defeating Dalhausser and Rogers in the gold medal match of the Prague Open on May 22 in Czech Republic.

The defending men’s world champions are Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann of Germany, who are seeded fourth this year.

The top two teams from each FIVB World Championship pool plus the eight best third-place finishers will move on to the knockout phase. Pool play matches for each gender will be held on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (June 13-15) followed by the 32-team elimination rounds on Thursday and Friday (June 16-17). The semifinals will be held on Saturday evening, June 18 with the medal matches set for Sunday evening, June 19.

In the men’s draw, Rogers and Dalhausser will open play in Pool A on Monday against compatriots Casey Jennings (Las Vegas, Nev.) and Kevin Wong (Honolulu, Hawaii), who are ranked 24th at noon PT. On Tuesday, Dalhausser and Rogers will play Angola’s Morais Abreu and Mario Silva (ranked 48) at 2 a.m. PT while Jennings and Wong face the Ces brothers – Andy and Kevin of France (25). On Wednesday, Dalhausser and Rogers will play the Ces brothers at noon PT while Jennings and Wong face Abreu and Silva.

The U.S. men’s team of Matt Fuerbringer (Costa Mesa, Calif.) and Nick Lucena (Santa Barbara, Calif.) is seeded seventh and will open play in Pool G on Monday against Brazil’s Harley Marques and Thiago Santos Barbosa (18) at 4 a.m. PT. On Tuesday, Fuerbringer and Lucena will face Australia’s Sam Boehm and Isaac Kapa (42) at 5 a.m. PT. On Wednesday, the U.S. team will go up against Georgia’s Renato “Geor” Gomes and Jorge “Gia” Terceiro (31) at noon PT.

The U.S. men’s team of Jake Gibb (Bountiful, Utah) and Sean Rosenthal (Redondo Beach, Calif.) is seeded 10th and will open play in Pool K at noon PT on Monday with Estonia’s Karl Jaani and Rivo Vesik (34). On Tuesday, Gibb and Rosenthal will play Russia’s Sergei Prokopiev and Yury Bogatov (39) at 6 a.m. PT.  On Wednesday, Gibb and Rosenthal will face Latvia’s Martins Plavins and Janis Smedins (15) at a time TBA.

In the women’s bracket, Kessy and Ross, ranked third, top Pool C, and will open on Tuesday at 12:30 a.m. PT against Barbara Hansel and Sara Montagnolli of Austria (27). At 7 a.m. PT on Monday, Kessy and Ross will play Czech Republic’s Hana Klapalova and Lenka Hajeckova (22). On Wednesday, Kessy and Ross will finish pool play against Switzerland’s Muriel Graessli and Tanja Goricanec (46) at 5 a.m. PT.

May-Treanor and Walsh will open play in Pool E on Tuesday at 1:30 a.m. PT against Czech Republic’s Kristyna Kolocova and Marketa Slukova (20). They will follow that by playing Italy’s Laura Giombini and Valeria Rosso (29) at 9 a.m. PT. On Wednesday, May-Treanor and Walsh will close out pool play at 7 a.m. PT against Czech Republic’s Sona Novakova Dosoudilova and Tereza Tobiasova (44).

In Pool L, Angie Akers (Fort Wayne, Ind.) and Nicole Branagh (Orinda, Calif.) will be the top seeds and the 11th-ranked team overall. They will open play on Monday at 3:30 a.m. PT against Italy’s Gioria Daniela and Giulia Momoli (14). On Tuesday, they will play Latvia’s Inguna Minusa and Inese Jursone (35) at 6 a.m. PT. They will close out pool play on Wednesday against Belgium’s Katrien Gielen and Liesbeth Mouha (38) at 3:30 a.m. PT.

Lauren Fendrick (Carlsbad, Calif.) and Brooke Hanson (Woodland Hills, Calif.), ranked 12th, will lead Pool M and will open play on Tuesday at 3:30 a.m. PT against Great Britain’s Denise Johns and Lucy Boulton (36). Next, they will face Italy’s Greta Cicolari and Marta Menegatti (13) at 11 a.m. PT on Tuesday. Fendrick and Hanson will close out pool play on Wednesday against Netherlands’ Roos Van der Hoeven and Jantine van der Vlist (37) at 9 a.m. PT.

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