Branagh, Youngs to Play for Beach Volleyball Gold

May 30, 2008, 4:26 p.m. (ET)

B.J. Evans
Manager, Media Relations and Publications
Phone: 719-228-6800

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (May 30, 2008) - After dropping their second match of the US$350,000 Hyundai Open Barcelona, the U.S. beach volleyball team of Nicole Branagh and Elaine Youngs recovered to win five-straight elimination matches to reach Friday's SWATCH FIVB World Tour semifinals. On Friday, Branagh (Orinda, Calif.) and Youngs (El Toro, Calif.), ranked second, upset Brazil's top-ranked Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca to reach their second international beach volleyball final as a team.

Branagh and Youngs opened play Friday with elimination wins over teams from Germany and Brazil to advance to Saturday's gold-medal match against fourth-seeded Talita Antunes and Renata Ribeiro of Brazil.

After Branagh and Youngs scored a 2-1 (22-20, 14-21, 15-13) win in 62 minutes over Juliana and Larissa, Talita and Renata reached their 11th SWATCH FIVB World Tour gold medal match with a 3-1 (19-21, 21-19, 15-8) win in 56 minutes over seventh-seeded Vassiliki Arvaniti and Vasso Karadassiou of Greece. The Brazilians will be seeking their second title this season after winning at the start of May in Shanghai.

 "I am glad we don't have to play another match today," said Youngs, 38, who will be competing Saturday for her 12th SWATCH FIVB World Tour gold medal. "We are very tired now as we have now played eight matches in three days. I think our physical conditioning paid off for us today. Also, it is great to play a gold-medal match with Nicole's family here to watch us."

Youngs felt the playing conditions of deep sand also helped her team.

"We train in the deep sand in Southern California, so we have been able to adjust to the surface," said Youngs. "Also, our service game played a big part in our victory against Juliana and Larissa. It is great to reach the finals in these beautiful surroundings. This is one of the best sites we play at and the Spanish fans have been great."

Branagh and Youngs, who dropped a SWATCH finale last November in Thailand to American rivals Misty May- Treanor (Costa Mesa, Calif.) and Kerri Walsh (Santa Clara, Calif.), opened play Friday with a 3-1 (21-15, 16-21, 15-13) win in 57 minutes over fifth-seeded Sara Goller and Laura Ludwig of Germany, followed by a 2-0 (27-25, 21-19) win in 56 minutes over third-seeded Shelda Bede and Ana Paula Connelly of Brazil.

Branagh and Youngs fell to the consolation bracket after losing their second-round match on Wednesday to Cuba's 15th-seeded Milagros Victoria Crespo Valle and Imara Esteves Ribalta, 1-2 (21-17, 12-21, 7-15)

The U.S. team of Jen Boss (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.) and April Ross (Costa Mesa, Calif.) were among the teams Talita and Renata had to beat to reach the final. The Brazilians posted a 2-0 (21-18, 21-14) victory over sixth-seeded Boss and Ross in 36 minutes on Friday. 

The U.S. team of Tyra Turner (Fort Meyers Beach, Fla.) and Rachel Wacholder (Laguna Beach, Calif.), seeded eighth, were eliminated on Thursday by Boss and Ross (19-21, 21-17, 14-16) and finished ninth.

More information and photos are available on the FIVB beach volleyball site at