Former Golden Gopher standout Nicole Branagh and her teammate Elaine Youngs, and the other beach volleyball Olympic teams, will begin pool play on either Saturday, Aug. 9 or Sunday, Aug. 10 at the 12,000-seat Chaoyang Park in Beijing.
Branagh and Youngs have received the fifth overall seed, and are in Pool E. Their pool includes the teams of Stephanie Pohl and Okka Rau from Germany, Imara Esteves Ribalta and Milagros Crespo from Cuba and Rebekka Kadijk and Merel Mooren from the Netherlands.
Jia Tian and Jie Wang from China are the overall No. 1 seed (due to being the host nation and ranking within the top six teams in the world) and are in Pool A. Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh are the No. 2 seeds, and are in Pool B. The team of Juliana and Larissa from Brazil are seeded third (are in Pool C), China’s Chen Xue and Xi Zhang are the fourth-seed (and are in Pool D) and Talita and Renata from Brazil are the sixth-seeded team (and are in Pool E).
Branagh and Youngs compete in their first match against Kadijk and Mooren from the Netherlands on Saturday, Aug. 9 at 6 p.m. local time (5 a.m. CT). They will the face Pohl and Rau from Germany on Monday, Aug. 11 at 6 p.m. local time (5 a.m. CT) and wrap up their preliminary round matches on Wednesday, Aug. 13 at 10 p.m. local time (9 a.m. CT).
The top two teams in each pool (12 total), along with the two best third-ranked teams, advance to a 16-team, single-elimination round. The remaining four third-placed teams will play "Lucky Loser" matches, with the two winners advancing to the round of 16.
After that, the winner of a match progresses, the loser is eliminated. The tournament continues in single elimination format until the semifinals, after which the two winning teams compete for the gold medal and the two losing teams play in the bronze-medal match.
Branagh was a four-year letterwinner at Minnesota. She holds the career-record for kills with 2,379, and had three of the top seven single-season kill totals (679 in 1999, 643 in 2000, 579 in 1998) in school history.
She joins former Golden Gopher teammate Lindsey Berg as one of two Minnesota volleyball players to earn the opportunity to compete in the 2008 Olympics.