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Volleyball: Mexico Wins 1st Match

September 17, 2000

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ Juan Ibarra and Joel Sotelo of Mexico pulled off the first major upset of Olympic beach volleyball by outlasting the top-seeded Australian team, 15-12.

The victory Sunday (Saturday night EDT) was the first in four matches for the Mexican pair over Julien Prosser and Lee Zahner. It advanced the last-seeded team into the final 16 of the men’s competition, and sent Prosser and Zahner to the loser’s bracket.

Ibarra provided strong defense, constantly digging out kill attempts by the Australians and setting up Sotelo for lobs and smashes that kept the top seeds off balance.

The Mexicans trailed only twice, at 3-2 and 12-11, and scored the final four points, with Ibarra’s dig of a smash by Zahner ricocheting back off the top of the net and falling between the Australians to finish the match.

Both of the favored Brazilian teams _ Emanuel Rego and Jose Loiola, and Ze Marco de Melo and Ricardo Santos _ were to play later in the day, along with the two U.S. teams of Rob Heidger and Kevin Wong, and Dain Blanton and Eric Fonoimoana.

In other morning matches, the fourth-seeded Swiss brothers Paul and Martin Laciga held on for a 15-13 victory over the Czech duo of Michal Palinek and Martin Lebl, and fifth-seeded Eduardo Esteban Martinez and Martin Conde of Argentina defeated the Italian team of Andrea Raffaelli and Maurizio Pimponi, 15-7.

Defending bronze medalists John Child and Mark Heese of Canada, the sixth seeds, cruised to a 15-5 triumph over the 19th-ranked French duo of Jean Philippe Jodard and Christian Penigaud.

Russia’s Sergey Ermishin and Mikhail Kouchnerev beat Mariano Baracetti and Jose Salema of Argentina, 15-4, and Luis Maia and Joao Brenha of Portugal toppled Jan Kvalheim and Bjorn Maaseide of Norway 15-10.

In a mild upset, Jorg Ahmann and Axel Hager of Germany beat 10th-seeded Javier Bosma and Fabio Diez of Spain 15-13, and Norway’s Joerre Kjemperud and Vegard Hoidalen won over Nikolas Berger and Oliver Stamm of Austria by 15-6.

The winners advance to the final 16 and get four days off while the losers enter elimination play to try to remain in contention for a medal.

Martin Laciga leveled the first complaint about the Bondi Beach court, which had been widely praised by players as a top quality facility on the picturesque beach. The sand in the stadium was deeper than on the practice courts and required getting used to, Laciga said.

``You practice on the side courts and then you go to the center court and it’s different,″ he said. ``No one told you about it and that’s not right.″