Preparing for the World Championships in Nantong are Cubans Leila Martinez (left) and Mailen Deliz.
Nantong, China, May 31, 2019 - Mailen Deliz and Leila Martinez posted a pair of seed-break-through wins here Friday at the third annual Silk Road Nantong Open as the Cubans prepare for their appearance at next month's 2019 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships in Germany.
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Seeded 13th in the Silk Road Nantong Open, Deliz and Martinez opened play on Friday with a 2-0 (21-15, 21-19) win in 39 minutes over 12th-seeded Gaia Traballi/Agata Zuccarelli of Italy before posting a 2-1 (24-22, 18-21, 15-12) victory in 48 minutes over top-seeded Carolina Horta/Angela Lavalle of Brazil to capture Pool A.
The 25-year-old Cubans, who are competing in their fourth FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour event, secured a spot in the 2019 World Championships via the NORCECA continental pathway. Since April 2018, Deliz and Martinez have capture six international beach volleyball titles, including five NORCECA gold medals and a May 2018 FIVB World Tour crown in Aydin, Turkey.
The 24-team Silk Road Nantong Open field has been narrowed to 16 pairs from 11 countries led by four Japanese tandems, and two pairs each from host China and Poland. Two Japanese duos captured Nantong pools along with teams from Norway, Russia and Switzerland.
Claiming group titles for Japan were 11th-seeded Reika Murakami/Kaho Sakaguchi (Pool B) and 10th-seeded Azusa Futami/Akiko Hasegawa (Pool C). Other pool winners were 16th-seeded Victoria Kjolberg/Ane Tveit Hjortland of Norway (Pool D), fifth-seeded Ksenia Dabizha/Daria Rudykh of Russia (Pool E) and seventh-seeded Laura Caluori/Dunja Gerson of Switzerland (Pool F).
Reaching for Mikasa is Kaho Sakaguchi (center) as Japanese partner Reika Murakami (right) and Australia's Phoebe Bell follow the action.
Despite losing to the Cubans, Horta and Lavalle advanced to Friday's rounds as the Brazilians seek to defend a gold medal won by the South American country in Nantong last year when Josemari Alves/Liliane Maestrini defeated Traballi and Zuccarelli for the title.
The US$25,000 Silk Road Nantong Open will feature elimination bracket play on Saturday to set the field for Sunday's final four matches where the winning team will split the $4,000 first-place prize.
The Silk Road Nantong Open is the first of two back-to-back women's international beach volleyball events in China as the city located on the northern bank of the Yangtze River stages the sixth of nine FIVB World Tour stops in China during the 2018-2019 season.