GSTAAD, Switzerland - On Saturday from the Gstaad Major, the FIVB announced the pools for the 2016 Olympic Games.
The 2016 U.S. Olympic Beach Volleyball Team learned its opponents for pool play matches at the Olympic Games with a large contingent of the Olympic bound teams on hand to watch.
The opening round of play will encompass the first six days of competition, which begin on August 6 from Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro.
The top six spots for both men and women were determined via the FIVB World Tour rankings, which closed on June 12. The U.S. qualified its four pairs by way of rankings, ensuring all of them a Top 15 seeding. Five berths were rewarded from Continental Cup winners and the World Continental Olympic Qualifier this week for the final available slots, a total of 24 teams in each gender competing.
No two teams from one country can be seeded in the same pool. After pool play, the top two teams in the pool will advance to the Round of 16. Of the third-place finishers in each pool, the top two of those six will advance, based on match points, then by set ratio. The four remaining third-ranked teams in each pool will play a two-match lucky loser round (3rd ranked vs 6th ranked; 4th vs 5th), with the winners advancing to the round of 16. The fourth ranked team in each pool will be eliminated.
2000 Sydney Olympic gold medalist Dain Blanton breaks down the 2016 Olympic pools and the draws as it pertains to the four American pairs competing.
"It's a fair system that's been thought out well," Blanton said of the drawing of the lots for pool play. "Both genders are so deep, it's exciting to watch. I was watching and you get your nerves going, you're finally going to know who is in your pool and you can start to scout them. My instincts as a player take over and you think about, do you have advantages or disadvantages. It's an interesting time and a time all of these teams have been waiting for. Now they know their path in order to get to the podium and that's what it's all about.
"It's all about playing your best. The fact that the top two teams out of each pool make it out and then in addition, the top two third-place teams and the other four third-place teams playing it off – I think that's the coolest format ever. I'd rather play it off than be eliminated by a point ratio."
Seeded third in Pool C, April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings. They will play:
Isabelle Forrer/Anouk Verge-Depre, Switzerland
Fan Wang/Yuan Yue, China
Mariafe Artacho/Nicole Laird, Australia
"Kerri and April are playing so well. They have Forrer and Depre in their pool and China is a team that is a wild card. You never know what is going to happen because they don't play in all the events. They show up a little differently prepared than you thought they were a month or so ago. China is a tough one and Kerri will tell you that because she's faced them so many times. I think they'll handle the pool and win the pool. They're in a good position."
Fifteen seeded Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat are in Pool A, playing:
Larissa Franca/Talita Antunes, Brazil
Kinga Kolosinska/Monika Brzostek, Poland
Winner of World Continental Olympic Qualifier on July 10* - Austria, Russia or Ukraine
Updated 7/11; winner is Russia
"In Pool A, the fourth team we aren't sure if it's going to be Austria, Russia or Ukraine. Those top three, you never want to be in a pool with Larissa and Talita. They're a great team and very difficult to beat. I think the Polish team, Fendrick and Sweat have an opportunity to get a win against them and against the fourth place team in the pool."
"I'm really happy with the draw and I think Fendrick and Sweat are in a good position to advance out of their pool as well."
In the men's drawing of lots, the United States had both of its pairs in the top six seeds, meaning they were the top seed of their pool.
"The men's side is way deeper than the women's side," Blanton continued. "When you're dealing with those teams 13-17, you're talking about teams that can win tournaments. A lot of these pools have two teams that are 17 or higher in them. It makes it difficult, you're thinking you're the number one team in your pool and all of a sudden you have two other teams in the top 17 and your pool is a dog fight.
"The most challenging thing is that 18-22 seeds were the Continental Cup winners because they're not on the World Tour all the time. The big advantage of the teams on the Tour is that you can scout them. Some of these teams aren't playing [on the World Tour]. Cuba, I haven't even seen that team play. You better do your homework if you have one of those lower teams by number but not by quality."
Top seed for the U.S. men, Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena are ranked third and in Pool C, playing:
Paolo Nicolai/Daniele Lupo, Italy
Juan Virgen/Lombardo Ontiveros, Mexico
Mohamed Naceur/Choaib Belhaj, Tunisia
"That's a tough one. Nicolai and Lupo are the stronger of the two Italian teams, I would believe. Virgen and Ontiveros from Mexico are a very tough team. Tunisia, I haven't seen them play but from what I hear, that is a match Phil and Nick should handle. The question is how good Virgen and Ontiveros play on that specific day, and Nicolai and Lupo. If Lucena and Dalhausser play to their potential, they'll win their pool."
Sixth seed Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson are in Pool F with:
Pablo Herrera/Adrian Gavira, Spain
Alexander Huber/Robin Seidl, Austria
Jefferson Pereira/Cherif Younousse, Qatar
"This is an interesting one. You get two teams that are 18-seeded and below. They have Austria and Qatar, they're one of the sneaky teams that don't play a lot on the Tour. They're very good, they have a 6-foot-8 guy that is very strong. They have a good pool."
"The fact that the top two teams get out, I think both American teams are in good shape on the men's side. I don't doubt that they will place one or two in their pool."
Beach volleyball will be played Aug. 6 through 18. The women's medal matches are Aug. 17 and the men's follow on Aug. 18. Closing ceremonies is Aug. 21.
The specific schedule, including match times and days, is expected to be announced by the FIVB during the week of July 11.