An exciting weekend of beach volleyball has witnessed new champions take out the second round of the Australian Beach Volleyball Tour.
The Women’s Elite Division gold medal match at the Mollymook Australian Beach Volleyball Tour (ABVT) was a repeat of the Cobram final two weeks earlier, going down to the wire in three sets.
But unlike Cobram, it was #3 seeds Caitlin Bettenay and Alisha Stevens who won the title on the NSW South Coast, defeating top seeds Phoebe Bell and Stefanie Fejes 2-1 (20-22, 21-15, 15-13).
“It feels so amazing to get the win, we worked really hard, we’re dealing with injuries, have been training individually, but we just stuck together through these tough conditions and made it work,” Stevens said
“We really trusted each other,” Bettenay added. “We had a strong game plan coming in and when it mattered we executed every single time. We played quite intuitively and together, and you could really tell with the windy conditions.”
Stevens said the pair gained a lot from their previous finals match-up two weeks earlier.
“We really learnt a lot, we looked at our stats from the last tournament, really hustled and pulled through,” she said.
“[Fejes and Bell] played absolutely awesome as they always do,” Bettenay added.
“We know every time we go up against each other it’s going to be a battle so it’s always great when playing against them.”
Earlier in the Women’s Elite bronze medal match, Rio 2016 Olympian Nikki Laird and her new partner Jessyka Ngauamo made a successful return to the National Tour, winning bronze in their first 2022 ABVT event, and first tournament together since 2017.
They came up against #2 seeds Georgia Johnson and Jasmine Fleming, with Laird and Ngauamo taking the win 2-0 (21-16, 21-19).
Rio 2016 Olympian Laird said it’s great to be back on the National Tour, and teamming up with Ngauamo.
“It feels good to be able to get back out there to compete,” she said.
“Both Jess and I have had a couple of long years with covid and Jess’s injuries, so it hasn’t been as smooth sailing as we would have liked, so it’s definitely nice to get back out there.”
Having both stood on the ABVT podium several times previously, Ngauamo said today’s bronze medal result has lit a fire in them to strive for more at their next tournament.
“We definitely came in with high expectations of ourselves and I think we’ll use this event to drive ourselves for more at the next on.”
In hot and windy conditions on the NSW South Coast, third seeds Mark Nicolaidis and Izac Carracher have upset the Tour Leaders Chris McHugh and Paul Burnett to win gold in the Men’s Elite division.
The victories mark the first National Tour titles for all four up-and-coming players.
In the Men’s division, it was a replay of the Cobram ABVT final two weeks ago, which the 2021 Asian Champions McHugh and Burnett won in straight sets.
However it was Nicolaidis and Carracher who were able to keep calm under pressure and adapt to the gusty conditions on Mollymook Beach to take the win 2-0 (21-15, 24-22).
“It’s awesome, we’ve been grinding the tour for a few years now and we had an opportunity in Cobram but couldn’t get the job done,” Carracher said.
“To come up against a talented side that has won Asian Champs and has an Olympic Games player, and to get the win is an awesome achievement, we’re stoked and couldn’t be happier.
“We’ve been trying to play together for a few years now but covid seemed to be doing us dirty, so to have the opportunity to come out this year, have a good preparation and really get some results under our belt is awesome.”
Coming into the gold-medal match as the underdogs, Nicolaidis said the windy conditions worked more in their favour than for their taller opposition.
“Today is the windiest it’s been all weekend so you do have to change your game style a bit, and it was more to our advantage as we run pretty small and quick so the wind can’t grab the ball a lot.
“Today was so much fun, we play our best when we’re having fun and for most of our games this weekend we just had smiles on our faces the whole time, and that’s the energy we want to take into the next few events.”
Earlier in the day, the Men’s bronze medal match saw Max Guehrer and Thomas Hodges win bronze against James Takken and Mateus Zieba.
Guehrer and Hodges had to quickly bounce back from an epic 3-set battle (21-11, 17-21, 18-16) against Carracher and Nicolaidis in the semi-final. However determined not to repeat their mistakes from Cobram, which saw them finish off the podium in 4th place, the duo came out firing from their earlier loss to win in straight sets 2-0 (21-18, 21-16).
The Australian Beach Volleyball Tour will now make its way to Manly, NSW on 4 – 6 March for the third stop of the ABVT, which doubles as the 2022 Australian Championships.
The ABVT is also the perfect platform for Volleyball Australia’s high performance athletes who have begun to ramp up preparations for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games will take place from 28 July to 8 August 2022.
To be in the stands in Birmingham supporting the Australian Team, for the first time Australian families and fans will be able to access group tickets for all events at the Commonwealth Games.
The Family & Fans Tour ensures Australian families and fans can sit and cheer together, stay together and play together at the Birmingham Games.
Tour packages are available; however, numbers are limited.
Bookings are now open, learn more about the Family & Fans Tour below.