Saturday showdowns set up Super Sunday semis
Geelong Beach Volleyfest saw an exciting day of play at Rippleside Beach where the semi-finalists were decided at the opening round of the 2023/24 Australian Beach Volleyball Tour.
Having won two rounds on the Tour last season when teaming up, Georgia Johnson and Jasmine Fleming remain on track for victory number three after a quarter-final victory over West Australians Lizzie Alchin and Tessa Brown.
The top seeds will now face Phoebe Bell and Caitlin Bettenay who fought hard to claim a three-set win over Stef Weiler and Lucia Michalovicova.
The Queenslanders took the first set, and after dropping the second reeled off the opening five points of the decider. While the set did even up, they were able to hold the ascendancy and book their place in the semis.
“It was quite windy today so there is a more advantageous end, but I think we did a really good job at making the most of each end, really trying to hunt five points on the good end and three points on the other end,” said Bettenay.
Bell said their side stuck to a game plan across all three sets which proved to be a key to victory.
“We spoke about momentum that whole match,” she said. “We were really trying to make sure we were controlling the momentum and energy throughout, so I was really proud of our game awareness.”
Belying their seventh seeding to make the semi-finals, Bettenay is hoping to play in front of a strong crowd on day three at Rippleside Beach.
“The goal has been to play some really good volleyball and enjoy every chance we have to compete,” she said. “We love the game, we love the sport, we love what Volleyball Australia’s put on this weekend in beautiful Geelong, so we’re pumped to be playing in the final four tomorrow… so come down and watch!”
The other semi-final will see the second and third seeds go to head with Jana Milutinovic and Stefie Fejes along with Kayla Mears and Tara Phillips taking their quarter-finals in straight sets.
The bottom half of the men’s draw was split wide open with the second and fourth seeds both out of the tournament before the quarter-finals.
Second seeds Solomon Bushby and James Takken were forced to withdraw due to injury, while Perth Steel’s Scape Australian Volleyball Super League-winning duo Daniel Piggott and Jed Walker eliminated fourth seeds Mateusz Zieba and Justin Schumann in the round of 12.
The West Australians were a set up in their quarter-final and enjoyed a good buffer in the second, however their third match of the day proved a bridge too far with Harley Sinclair and Josh Howat mounting an impressive comeback to win in three.
Taking advantage of the wide open draw, Martin Kaufer and Ky Landers – seeded 11th – landed themselves in the semis with a straight sets win over Jett Rocker-Graham and Killian Donovan.
Despite losing their second match on day one, third seeds D’Artagnan Potts and Ben Hood find themselves still alive as the highest-ranked team in the men’s draw.
Having returned from the U21 World Championships in Thailand last week, they made their way through the round of 12 to earn a quarter-final showdown with the number one seeds.
In the second last match for the day on the stadium court, Potts and Hood took the first set from Paul Burnett and Jack Pearse and held a handy advantage in the second before the margin narrowed.
However some big plays at crucial stages ensured the young guns held their nerve to advance.
With all four players part of the national program, Potts said it was a relief to get a win up on their long-time training partners.
“Finally got one over the boys after training with them for ages and ages and always just being below, so it’s nice to finally get one on them,” he said. “Every game is still just building blocks for us because we’re still a pretty new partnership, and it’s just continuing to work on our defence and our offence, but it’s always nice to see it come together like it did today.”
Hood said they were looking forward to moving into the final four as the only one of the top six seeds remaining.
“Really excited, we had to play some good volleyball to beat them,” said Hood. “In the wind everything kind of levels out a bit, but we’re really happy with that win and excited for tomorrow.”
Potts and Hood will meet ninth seeds Jack Gregory and Patrick Tang who outlasted Jack’s brother Tim and Matthew Abela in the final match of the day.
Super Sunday begins at 8am AEDT with the women’s semi-finals followed by the men.
The medal rounds commence at midday with the gold medal matches streamed live via SBS On Demand from 2pm AEDT.
2023/24 AUSTRALIAN BEACH VOLLEYBALL TOUR
Round 1 – Geelong VIC
Day 3 – Sunday 19 November
(all times AEDT)
Women’s Semi Finals
8am  Georgia Johnson/Jasmine Fleming v  Phoebe Bell/Caitlin Bettenay (Court 1)
8am  Kayla Mears/Tara Phillips v  Jana Milutinovic/Stefie Fejes (Court 2)
9am  D’Artagnan Potts/Ben Hood v  Jack Gregory/Patrick Tang (Court 1)
9am  Martin Kaufer/Ky Landers v  Josh Howat/Harley Sinclair (Court 2)
12pm Women’s Bronze Medal Match (Court 1)
1pm Men’s Bronze Medal Match (Court 1)
2pm Women’s Gold Medal Match (Court 1)
3pm Women’s Gold Medal Match (Court 1)