The New Zealand teams were in the medals in the Beach Pro Tour Futures Mount Maunganui 2023, with Beach Ferns Alice Zeimann and Shaunna Polley taking gold before hopping on a plane to Mexico for the Elite 16's event.
The O’Dea brothers fought hard, but experienced Chinese pair Likejiang Ha and Jiaxin Wu were too strong, winning the final and gold in two sets.
"This tournament's been up and down for us, some really good and some patchy bits, but the final was definitely super strong for us," said Alice Zeimann.
"We did a good job of sticking to our game plan, coming out really aggressive and swinging on lots of balls, really strong serves and it paid off," said Shaunna Polley.
The Ferns looked assured from the start, taking an 9-4 lead with a pair of Polley spikes, with MacDonald and Tilley fighting hard, but taking some time to dial in their accuracy.
Roared on by family and friends, Zeimann made a big block to get out to 17-11, and followed up with a massive serve to prove the point.
MacDonald saved a set point with a big block of her own, before Polley sealed the first set 21-14 with a subtle finish.
Zeimann and Polley started the second set with four unanswered points, and kept the pressure on, building up a 14-7 lead midway through the second set.
MacDonald made a soft touch to drag a point back at 16-8, but Zeimann answered back straight away, finding open sand with a drive after a long rally, then blocked MacDonald at the net to go to 19-8.
MacDonald and Tilley saved four match points, but it was Zeimann who had the honour of hitting the final point, taking the second set and gold medal 21-12.
Mount locals Sam and Ben O'Dea played against China's Likejiang Ha and Jiaxin Wu all around the world on the tour, but never on home sand - but despite a strong showing, the O'Deas were unable to take the gold.
"We've played against those guys for five or six years now, sometimes we do well, sometimes we don't, but usually it's a pretty close game. That's the kind of game we should be able to get up for, but for some reason it didn't happen," said Ben O'Dea.
After a point for point start, the locals took a 7-5 lead with a Sam O'Dea spike, then got to 8-6 with a big block by Ben.
The O'Deas used a mix of subtle touches like drop serves and their power at the net against the height of Likejiang and Jiaxin.
China put a run of points together, pulling away to 17-12, silencing the home fans. Ben made a massive dig and spike to pull one back and start a fightback, but Ha and Wu were able to hold on, taking the first set 21-17.
The O'Deas came out firing in the second, with Sam finding his spike range and Ben making desperate digs and drop shots to get the crowd going.
Sam made a line drive to get back to 17-12, but Likejiang and Jiaxin's lead was too great, taking control to close the set out 21-13 and take the match.
- Women’s Final: Shaunna Polley and Alice Zeimann defeated Olivia MacDonald and Julia Tilley 2-0 (21-14, 21-12)
- Men’s Final: Likejiang Ha / Jiaxin Wu defeated Ben and Sam O’Dea 2-0 (21-17 and 21-13)
All photos courtesy @Phototek