Wildcards take advantage of opportunity to claim ABVT title
Top spot on the elite men’s podium had a European flavour to it at the Australian Beach Volleyball Tour in Canberra with a new combination taking the long path towards a memorable title.
Italian Daniele Acconci and Polish-born Mateusz Zieba entered qualifying with an international wildcard into the event. While Zieba is a familiar face around the ABVT, Acconci is new to the circuit and the pair have only come together this season.
The newly-formed combination had two comfortable victories in qualification on Friday evening to take one of the final places in the main draw.
After dropping the opening set of their first pool match, Acconci and Zieba reeled off four straight victorious sets to finish on top of their group and move into the finals.
In a tough quarter-final, Declan Tiso and Sam Halley claimed the opening set and pushed their opponents all the way, however the international pairing eventually prevailed 3-0 (17-21 24-22, 15-13).
Their semi-final combatants – Christopher Blake and Bryce Poland – beat the tournament’s top seeds on their way to topping pool A and came into the match having dropped just one set in the tournament. However their strong run came to an end with Acconci and Zieba advancing to their first final with a 2-0 (21-14, 21-17) victory.
That set up a final showdown with second seeds Jack Pearse and Joshua Howat. The South Australian-West Australian pair hadn’t dropped a set until they were pushed the distance in their semi-final against Garang Anyang and Justin Schumann, eventually prevailing 15-21, 21-18, 15-13.
Having won eight of their previous nine sets, Acconci and Zieba carried momentum into the final and shot out to a quick lead, claiming the opening set 21-14. The second set was far closer, however Howat and Pearse couldn’t force a decider, with the wildcards getting on top 23-21.
“It’s my first final on the tour, so it’s a great feeling,” said Zieba. “I had a great partner that helped me to do it.
“I cannot describe my emotion. First, because I cannot speak English, and second, because I’m so happy!” said Acconci, who explained the pairing took a single-minded strategy into the match: “Keep the focus on sideout. That’s it.”
In the third place playoff, Anyang and Schumann came back from a set down to beat Blake and Poland 2-1 (14-21, 23-21, 15-8).