B.J. Hoeptner Evans
Manager, Media Relations and Publications
BEIJING – Looking rested and ready, the U.S. beach volleyball team of Nicole Branagh (Orinda, Calif.) and Elaine Youngs (El Toro, Calif.) defeated Cuba’s Dalixia Fernandez Grasset and Tamara Larrea Peraza, 21-15, 21-13 in 38 minutes on Saturday in the single-elimination Round of 16 at Chaoyang Park Beach Volleyball Ground.
The victory qualifies Branagh and Youngs for the quarterfinals on Aug. 17, where they will play the winner of the match between Cuba’s Milagros Crespo and Imara Esteves Ribalta and China’s Chen Xue and Xi Zhang, which was being played Friday evening.
Branagh and Youngs went to bed Thursday night not knowing when they might play next or who they might be playing as pool play was completed and the FIVB determined the seedings for the Round of 16.
Coach Liz Masakayan woke Branagh up with a phone call to let her know they would be playing at 10 a.m. the next day. Branagh woke Youngs up to inform her.
However, the team did not show any signs of fatigue from loss of sleep.
“We feel great,” Youngs said. “Now we get the whole day to recover and prepare.”
Branagh and Youngs dominated Friday’s match, out-hitting the Cubans 29-21, out-blocking them 3-0, serving three aces as compared to none for the Cubans and out-digging them 3-2.
Branagh was the kills leader with 15 on 23 attempts. She also had all three of the team’s digs and two of its three aces. Youngs had all three of the team’s blocks.
In the first set, the U.S. team was leading 5-3 when Youngs took the serve on a Cuban attack error. She served for three straight points, including an ace to make it 8-3. Dalixia and Tamara later pulled to within two points at 15-13, but Branagh and Youngs reeled off five straight points, including an ace, a block and a kill to pull away.
The second set was closer until the score was tied 7-7. A Youngs’ kill gave Branagh the serve and put the team up by one. Branagh followed with a kill and an ace to take a 10-7 lead. Cuba never recovered.
Olympic Tournament Results
Aug. 9: Branagh/Youngs USA  def. Kadijk R. /Mooren NED , 2-0 (21-19, 27-25), 0:50
Aug. 11: Branagh/Youngs USA  def. Pohl/Rau GER , 2-0 (21-17, 21-16), 0:46
Aug. 13: Branagh/Youngs USA  def. Esteves Ribalta/M. Crespo CUB , 2-1 (21-19, 13-21, 15-12), 0:56
Round of 16
Aug. 15: Branagh-Youngs USA  def. Fernandez Grasset-Larrea Peraza CUB , 2-0 (21-15, 21-13), 0:37