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Familiar faces to mix with new in Australian Championship Finals

Familiar faces to mix with new in Australian Championship Finals

The Finals day of the 2022 Australian Beach Volleyball Championships is set to deliver something unexpected with several new faces making their Australian Beach Volleyball Tour (ABVT) finals debut on Sunday 27 March.

The quarterfinals on the Gold Coast saw the familiar two top seeded teams advance through to the semifinals, however there will be several new faces fighting for medals on Coolangatta Beach.

In the Men’s Elite, top seeds and Mollymook ABVT gold medallists Izac Carracher and Mark Nicolaidis had to fight through three sets (21-12, 31-33, 15-9) against Joshua Howat and Lucas Josefsen in the quarterfinals to book their ticket to the semis.

“We came out against some guys that we train against all the time and we know they can string together some really good points,” Carracher said.

“We came out really well, but then the wind picked up and they built up some really good momentum and we had a really tough battle in that second set, but good to get the job done and move on through to Sunday morning.”

They will face fifth seeds Sam Halley and Mateusz Zieba in Sunday’s semifinals. It will be Halley and Zieba’s second Finals day this season, but first time together. Halley, who placed 5th in last year’s Coolangatta ABVT Finals, won bronze with Matt Reeves at the Cobram ABVT in February, while Polish-born Zieba placed 4th in Mollymook last month and 5th in Cobram with James Takken.

Qualifying for their first ABVT semifinal this season was fourth seeds Garang Anyang and Justin Schuman. The duo have steadily been improving this season, placing 9th together at Cobram and 5th in Mollymook last month.

In a case of deja vu, the duo faced second seeds Max Guehrer and Tom Hodges in the quarterfinal clash, but unlike at Mollymook where Guehrer and Hodges got the upperhand, it was the younger Anyang and Schuman who won the match 2:1 (21-16, 18-21, 15-11) to advance to their first ABVT medal opportunity.

“It was such an exciting game, whenever we play those boys it’s always a three-setter that gets the fans going,” Anyang said.

“Last time they had us, but to win today, that match was a special one.

“We didn’t start the season as well as we wanted to but then to improve to fifth to now make Sunday Finals is where you want to be and we’re really starting to gel together.”

Anyang and Schuman will face New Zealand’s Sam O’Dea and Bradley Fuller in the second semifinal on Sunday.

Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist O’Dea and his 2022 partner Fuller are New Zealand’s top ranked men’s beach volleyball team and have been undefeated in Coolangatta so far. Coming in as an unseeded international team, the duo won all three games in Friday’s Qualification Tournament to advance to the main draw. 

They defeated Commonwealth Games gold medalist  Damian Schuman and his partner Martin Kaufer in straight sets, and have already had a 3-set battle against Anyang and Schuman in the Pool rounds (21-23, 21-13, 18-16) to top their pool, setting up a tantalising rematch in tomorrow’s semifinal at 9am.

The Women’s Elite semifinal will see a very interesting clash between ninth seeds Jasmine Fleming and Britt Kendall, and the unseeded Cherry Rondina and Bernadeth Pons from the Philippines.

Fleming placed 4th at Mollymook and 5th at Cobram with Georgia Johnson, but Coolangatta is the first time she’s paired up with Kendall, who is playing in her first national tournament in two years following a severe back injury. Fleming and Kendall defeated Johnson and Mollymook ABVT winner Alisha Stevens 2:1 (19-21, 21-15, 15-6) in the quarterfinals.

Rondina and Pons are visiting Australia with seven other teams from Volleyball Philippines for a two-week training camp with Australia’s national players in Queensland. Similar to the Kiwi pair in the Men’s, the duo had to advance through Friday’s Qualification Tournament and then the Main Draw to book their tickets to the final day.

They defeated Mollymook ABVT champion Caitlin Bettenay and Cobram ABVT gold medallist Stefanie Fejes 2:0 (21-15, 21-17) in the quarterfinals and will be a force to be reckoned with in the medal matches.

“We’re extremely amazed,” Pons said following their quarterfinals. “Caitlin and Stefi are an extremely tough team to beat, and we just enjoyed our game, we played our best, we take it one point at a time and our goal is to win every point.”

“Coming into the semis, we just want to play our best, there’s no pressure, no expectation, we’re just going to play our hearts out and give our 101-percent,” Rondina added.

“We expect we’ll gain a lot of experience tomorrow because the remaining teams are so tough.”

Top seeds Nikki Laird and Phoebe Bell have advanced through to Sunday’s semifinals undefeated and will play fifth seeds Rebecca Ingram and Christie Jenkins 8am on Sunday. It’s the first competition Ingram and Jenkins have played together since they placed 5th at the 2021 Coolangatta ABVT Finals. 

Sunday’s Schedule (All times are AEST – Queensland local time)

8am – Women’s Semifinal 1: Nikki Laird/Phoebe Bell v Rebecca Ingram/Christie Jenkins. Stream live on AusVolley YouTube

8am – Women’s Semifinal 2: Cherry Ann Rondina/Bernadeth Pons v Jasmine Fleming/Britt Kendall

9am: Men’s Semifinal 1: Sam Halley/Mateusz Zieba v Izac Carracher/Mark Nicolaidis. Stream live on AusVolley YouTube

9am: men’s Semifinal 2: Garang Anyang/Justin Schumann v Sam O’dea/Bradley Fuller

11.30am: Women’s Bronze Medal Match. Stream live on AusVolley YouTube

12.30pm: Men’s Bronze Medal Match. Stream live on AusVolley YouTube

2pm: Women’s Gold Medal match. Watch Live on SBS Viceland & SBS on Demand

3pm: Men’s Gold Medal match. Watch Live on SBS Viceland & SBS on Demand

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