Manuel set for finals day in El Salvador

The most experienced women have held their ground at last week’s Copa El Salvador Impresionante. Almost all of the top seeds remain in the quarterfinal round including Kauai’s Malia Manuel, who is eyeing her first event win of the season.

The eight women remaining have a tough task on their hands if they hope to walk away with the top prize at this QS 6,000 event. Keely Andrew, Coco Ho, Bronte Macaulay, Anali Gomez, Silvana Lima, Paige Hareb and Alessa Quizon join Manuel on finals day.

Entering the event, Manuel sat in third for the season on the Qualifying Series rankings. Guaranteed at least a fifth-place result will certainly keep her in that top tier and she has a chance to take over the No. 1 spot, currently held by Nikki Van Dijk.

Manuel’s path is a tough one with Lima as her next opponent. But Malia’s last contest win came at the 2014 Hunter Ports Women’s Classic. During that event, she took down Lima in the quarterfinals and went on to top Quizon in the final. It would take a similar effort this time around as a quarterfinal win would set up a matchup with either Quizon or Hareb in the semifinals.

There isn’t much Manuel hasn’t yet accomplished on the QS and a win in El Salvador could pretty much wrap up her 2016 campaign, allowing her to focus more exclusively on the Championship Tour. But even with a win, she’ll likely still elect to compete in Oceanside and probably Spain, the year’s final two QS 6,000 contests.

Tatiana Weston-Webb will still have some work to do if she hopes to finish the year in the QS top six. Coming off a quarterfinal loss in Cabo, Tati was knocked out in round five by the most in-form surfer currently on the women’s QS tour. Australia’s Bronte Macaulay rocketed up the leaderboard by winning the Los Cabos Open of Surf and is keeping that pace going in El Salvador. She threw away an 8.67 in her win over Tati, compiling an 18.16 heat total after already winning both of her four-woman heats.

Macaulay sits in second on the QS and is guaranteed to move ahead of the inactive Van Dijk. She and Manuel are the only two with a chance to leave El Salvador with the points lead.

Kauai’s Brianna Cope and Bailey Nagy were unfortunately eliminated in the same Round of 48 heat. They each survived one round before bowing out to the Aussie duo of Andrew and Dimity Stoyle.

Finals day will probably be most important to Coco Ho. It’s been a very tough year on the CT and she hasn’t yet produced a major QS result. Her performance so far will almost certainly move her into the top 20, but a win would move her into the top 10 with two major contests still on tap.

There’s a lot at stake today for Cleveland and Golden State, but this final eight will surely be facing similar finals pressure.

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David Simon can be reached at dsimon@thegardenisland.com.

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