BEIJING (Aug. 17, 2008) – A crowd estimated at 11,500 cheered the Chinese team of Chen Xue and Xi Zhang on to a 21-17, 21-13 victory over the U.S. team of Nicole Branagh (Orinda, Calif.) and Elaine Youngs (El Toro, Calif.) on Sunday in the quarterfinals of the Olympic beach volleyball tournament at the Chaoyang Park venue.
With the loss, Branagh and Youngs, ranked fifth, have been eliminated from the Olympic tournament. They finish with a record of 4-1 in a tie for fifth place. Xue and Zhang Xi, ranked fourth, will play their countrywomen, top-ranked Tian Jia and Wang Jie in the semifinals. China is guaranteed to win at least a silver medal in the tournament.
In the last quarterfinal match Sunday evening, Brazil preserved its streak of appearing in each woman’s Olympic beach volleyball semifinal as sixth-seeded Talita Antunes and Renata Ribeiro scored a 24-22 and 21-14 win in 47 minutes over 10th-seeded Tamsin Barnett and Natalie Cook of Australia.
Talita and Renata will play the No. 2-ranked U.S. team of Misty May-Treanor (Costa Mesa, Calif.) and Kerri Walsh (Saratoga, Calif.) in the semifinals on Tuesday (Aug. 19).
On Sunday, Branagh and Youngs struggled with 18 team errors as opposed to eight for the Chinese. Branagh tallied six kills and five digs. Youngs had 17 kills, four aces, one block and two digs.
Xue was the leading blocker in the match with four. She also had 11 kills and one ace. Zhang Xi finished with seven kills, four digs and one ace.
“China played very well as usual,” Branagh said. “They switched their game to adapt to us during the match. We ended up giving them a lot of points.”
In the first set, Branagh and Youngs looked to be on their way to victory as they worked their way toward an 11-7 lead. Youngs had three aces in the buildup.
Later, with the U.S. leading 12-8, Xue’s attack hit the back line for a kill. Two hitting errors and two serving errors later, the United States’ lead was cut to one, at 13-12. Xue had two straight blocks to take the lead at 14-13. Branagh’s hit went long to give China the 15-13 lead. Branagh had two more kills in the match and Youngs had one, but it was not enough as the Chinese steamed to a 21-17 win.
The mistakes continued in the second set, which opened with two straight serving errors by each team. With the score tied 4-4, Xue had a block and Youngs committed a hitting error to put the Chinese up by two points. From there, the U.S. team could only try to play catch-up, but could not string together enough points to have an impact.
Leading 16-12, China scored three points in a row to hasten match-point. After the Chinese served long to make it 19-13, Branagh served into the net to give the Chinese one more point, which they got when she served long.
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
Xue-Zhang Xi CHN  def. Branagh-Youngs USA , 2-0 (21-17, 21-13), 0:40