Locals taste glory on home sand
Three local players have relished competing at home and taken victory at the Australian Junior Beach Volleyball Tour in Wollongong today.
Adax Brienen hails from Woonona, just 15 minutes up the road from North Wollongong Beach, and along with partner Adam Fejes (NSW) entered the tournament as favourites after winning the last Tour event in Brisbane.
The top seeds made it through to the final without dropping a set where they had to face second seeds Asher Gill (NSW) and Felix Birke (NSW), who had been pushed to tiebreakers in their quarter and semi finals.
Gill and Birke jumped out to an early lead but Brienen and Birke squared the ledger in the second set before taking out the decider to win 2-1 (18-21, 21-17, 15-8).
“It feels really great to win it on, basically, my home beach,” said Brienen. Fejes added: “It’s really good to back it up from Brisbane where we got gold. There was a bit of pressure but we got it done.”
The pair will both be in action over the weekend in the Australian Beach Volleyball Tour, albeit with new partners as they look to improve different aspects of their games.
“Obviously a little disappointed not to be playing with Adam,” said Brienen, “but it’s good to play with other people and learn from other people too.”
In the bronze medal match, Canberra’s Charlie Beard and Jay Tregagle were too good for Queensland’s David Brown and Benjamin Larsen.
Like Brienen, Mali Towers and Lara Limbrick took advantage of competing on home sand with the Wollongong locals winning the U19 women’s tournament.
The second seeds were forced into a tough semi-final hitout against top seeded South Australian pairing Leilani Burnell and Georgina Vanloo. In a match which went for 116 points – the longest across both days of competition in all four categories – Towers and Limbrick eventually triumphed 2-1 (21-17, 21-23, 18-16).
In the final, third seeds Oriwia Noble (NSW) and Remy Song (NSW) shot out to an 11-3 lead, however the locals recovered to take the set 21-18. The second set was just as hard-fought, but eventually Towers and Limbrick took it by the same score to earn their place on top of the podium.
“It feels pretty good; pretty stoked because we’ve worked pretty hard to get where we are, and it’s the last tournament of the season for us as well,” said Towers. “It’s nice to see everyone get together in our community and to play on our home beach and to win on it just feels amazing.”
In the bronze medal playoff, Burnell and Vanloo defeated Queensland combination Stephanie Marshall and Shelby Peace 2-0.
In the under 21 men’s competition, Queensland pair Ben Hood and Lucas Josefsen repeated their victorious run in Brisbane by claiming gold over seventh seeds Jarvis Page (NSW) and Jacob Baird (QLD). Hood and Josefsen dropped just one of 11 sets throughout the tournament in a highly-successful season where they have never been outside the top two.
Killian Donovon and Jett Rocker-Graham from NSW matched their effort from the opening round of the season by claiming bronze over Canberra winners and second seeds Kaia Clarkin (ACT) and D’Artagnon Potts.
Cassie Dodd entered the under 21 women’s competition aiming for her third victory in as many tournaments, however it was not to be for the West Australian as she and Stefanie Fejes (NSW) went down to Elizabeth Alchin (WA) and Kayla Mears (QLD) 2-0 in the final.
The second seeds didn’t drop a set throughout the tournament en route to Alchin’s second victory of the season, having taken out the Canberra tournament with Dodd in January.
The bronze medal was won by South Australia’s Dayna Taylor and Ruby Vanloo who beat third-seeded Queenslanders Brianna Mears and Jasmine Ryner.
The Australian Beach Volleyball Tour will commence on Friday at North Wollongong Beach and continue through the weekend.