May-Treanor/Walsh advance to semis

Surprisingly, it wasn’t on in primetime in the States (and unfortunately I missed it), but Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh dispatched Brazil in two sets, 21-18 and 21-15.

It figured to be the toughest opponent yet for the Americans, but an unheralded team from Belgium actually gave them a stiffer test in the round of 16.

Then again, this isn’t your typical Brazilian team. The No. 3 seed overall entering the tournament, yes. But it wasn’t these two women together who earned that ranking. Ana Paula is a replacement for Larissa’s regular partner Juliana Silva, who landed awkwardly in a match and injured her knee earlier this season. She declined immediate surgery in hopes of seeing her first Olympics, but two days before competition in Beijing was set to begin, Juliana withdrew. Thus, Brazilian rivals were asked to keep their country’s tradition strong.

You can’t fault a 25-year-old for desperately desiring her Olympic debut, but Juliana’s late decision appears to have ended up hurting her partner. Ana Paula arrived in China a day before the Opening Ceremony to begin training with a woman whom she had never played a prior match.

Confusion plagued the two throughout. At times it looked like Ana Paula wanted to lead, being the being the more-experienced of the two, but this was Larissa’s team. Ana Paula would have been at home watching if it weren’t for Larissa. Late in the second set, Larissa sat on a wall next to their bench to turn her whole body toward Ana Paula and lecture. No matter the reluctance a two-Olympian might have in getting instruction from someone 10 years younger, it was too little too late.

NBC will have coverage of the Americans’ next match in primetime on Monday night. In other action, Elaine Youngs and Nicole Branagh fell to Xue Chen and Zhang Xi of China in straight sets, eliminating the possibility of an All-American final.

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