National Teams
Mollymook sets the stage for Beach Pro Tour season opener

Mollymook sets the stage for Beach Pro Tour season opener

Georgia Johnson (QLD) and Jasmine Fleming (QLD) will be aiming for back-to-back Futures titles when the 2024 Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour gets underway tomorrow.

First stop this season is the picturesque south coast of New South Wales where Mollymook Beach plays host to the Beach Pro Tour for the very first time from Wednesday 28 February to Sunday 3 March.

The last Futures tournament of 2023 was held in the Victorian city of Geelong where Fleming and Johnson were forced to come from behind in their opening match before winning 10 straight sets on the way to the title.

It was a case of third time lucky for the Queensland duo who lost finals in Coolangatta and Helsinki earlier in the year before breaking through for the first time, with Johnson grateful Australia will be hosting more Beach Pro Tour events early this year.

“We are so lucky to be able to play Futures events on home soil as it gives us invaluable experience against international competition,” she said. “We set and met our goals with strong performances in 2023 on the Futures level, and we have been training and working hard to reach the next level.

“Starting off our international season with two Futures events on home soil, in Mollymook and Coolangatta, will launch us into Asian Volleyball and Challenge events through Asia.

“We are looking to add to our medal tally!”

Johnson and Fleming finished third in the Australian Beach Volleyball Tour round in Mollymook last weekend which was taken out by Stefie Fejes (NSW) and Jana Milutinovic (SA).

Fejes and Milutinovic are the only other combination in the women’s draw to taste Beach Pro Tour success, winning their first-ever Futures event together last year in Coolangatta.

The previous year in Coolangatta, Mark Nicolaidis (QLD) and Izac Carracher (NSW) also won their first Futures event as a team, and they enter this week’s event as the men’s top seeds.

Since that tournament, Nicolaidis and Carracher have gone on to become regulars at Challenge and Elite16 events. They have also qualified for the last two World Championships, finishing in a share of ninth place in 2022.

In what is a hugely important year for the sport, Carracher says he and Nicolaidis need to put aside the weight of being the highest-ranked team in the tournament to get about the business of winning.

“It’s always a different challenge coming into a tournament as top seeds with expectation on your back, but we’ve tried to embrace the opportunity and the pressure that comes with it,” he said. “The art of winning is always hugely important of course, but in an Olympic year everything becomes more important.

“We’ve got a huge few months leading into Continental Cup in June – which is the Olympic qualifier for the Asian zone. We need to put ourselves in the best position to be winning that.

“We’ve definitely got some game style things to work on over the coming months to be as finely-tuned as possible in June. Building winning habits in the lead-up is going to be crucial for us to achieve what we want to achieve this year.”

Sure to be challenging Carracher and Nicolaidis for the title in Mollymook will be Paul Burnett (WA) and Jack Pearse (SA) with the teams standing at a win apiece in their head-to-head record this season. 

Burnett and Pearse won the final Futures event of 2023 in November in what was just their second event together, and on Sunday downed Carracher and Nicolaidis in the final of the Australian Beach Volleyball Tour round in Mollymook.

Hoping to spoil the hometown party will be Canadian pair Jake MacNeil and Alexander William Russell who were defeated by Nicolaidis and Carracher in their sole Beach Pro Tour final two years ago in Coolangatta.

The Beach Pro Tour will conclude a 10-day beach volleyball festival dubbed ‘VolleyMook’ which includes rounds of the Australian national and junior national tours along with a series of off-sand entertainment and activities.

The Beach Pro Tour will continue in Mount Manganui, New Zealand next week, before returning to Australia at Coolangatta Beach on 21 March.

VolleyMook is proudly supported by the NSW Government and Shoalhaven City Council.

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