Wollongong ready for top class action
North Wollongong Beach is set to play host to some of the best players in the country when the Australian Beach Volleyball Tour (ABVT) hits town from Friday.
Following successful events in Torquay and Canberra in 2022/23, the Tour heads to NSW with many players making their first appearance in the Illawarra region.
“I’m looking forward to heading to Wollongong,” said Caitlin Bettenay, who is part of the top seeded combination in the women’s draw this weekend. “It’ll be my first time there but I hear it’s super beautiful.”
Bettenay, who won the ABVT event in Mollymook last year alongside Alisha Stevens, is paired for the first time with Rio Olympian Nikki Laird.
“I’m super pumped to be playing with Nikki – first time partner, but stoked to be playing with her and partnering together,” she said. “We’re both very competitive people.
“Nikki’s from NSW too, so hopefully we’ll have a lot of support there.”
Bettenay was runner up alongside Britt Kendall (SA) last round in Canberra, with a remix of pairings setting up an enticing competition in Wollongong. Canberra winners Jasmine Fleming and Georgia Johnson (QLD) both have new partners this weekend, with Fleming and Kendall lining up as second seeds, while Johnson has been seeded third with South Australia’s Tara Phillips.
Despite the challenge ahead, Bettenay knows the preparation has been done and now it’s time to put it into action.
“Training’s been great; we’ve been going to work every day, putting the hours in and training really hard,” she said. “The last week has been competition-focused, but I’m really excited to actually get out there and get into the competition. That’s why we play, right, to compete.”
In the men’s draw, top seeds Solomon Bushby (SA) and James Takken (QLD) will be keen to match their ranking having been eliminated in the quarter-finals of the opening two legs of the Tour.
Garang Anyang (VIC) was runner up in Torquay and claimed bronze in Canberra with Justin Schumann (VIC), and takes the second seed position this tournament with South Australia’s Jack Pearse.
Queensland pairing Ben Hood and Lucas Josefsen are top seeds for the Under 21 event on the Australian Junior Beach Volleyball Tour on Wednesday and Thursday having finished first and second in their opening two tournaments of the year, and have been named third seeds for the elite men’s event.
However one pairing everyone will have their eyes on are international wild cards Daniele Acconci and Mateusz Zieba. The Italian-Polish combination have found a home on the northern beaches of Sydney and could not be toppled in Canberra on their way to an impressive victory.
Zieba – who also won the bronze medal match with Samuel Halley (NSW) in Torquay – is keen to make it three podiums from as many Tour events this season.
“I think we’re a little bit better than we were in Canberra,” said Zieba. “The longer you play together the better you are.
“I’ve been working with Daniele in Manly; it’s been easy to practise together both being there.
“We’ve sorted out some small issues and are playing well.”
“No injuries, which is good. I was struggling a little bit before Canberra but really good now.”
As wild card entrants, Zieba and Acconci need to go through the qualification tournament starting on Friday to make it to the main draw, with the race for gold taking place over the weekend.