NZ teams take Oceania Continental Cup titles

The Beach Blacks and Beach Ferns made a major step in the qualification process for the Paris Olympic Games over the weekend, winning the Continental Cup Oceania Zone Championships in Vanuatu.

The Beach Ferns duos of Alice Zeimann and Olivia Macdonald and Kiana Stevenson and Maria Hanabadi saw off Vanuatu in the final while the Beach Blacks combinations of Brad Fuller and Alani Nicklin and Tom Reid and Jack McManaway also beat the host nation in the final matches.

The weekend's results see New Zealand qualify through to the final phase of Olympic qualification held during 2024.

Kiwis set for Asian Beach Championships

Ten Kiwis will represent their country at the Asian Beach Volleyball Championships in China later this week.

In the women’s competition, Alice Zeimann has a chance for back-to-back titles after winning the 2023 event with Shaunna Polley.

This time around Zeimann will be paired with Olivia Macdonald with Polley recovering from injury.

New Zealand Junior Indoor captain Rosa Vesty and Kiana Stevenson complete the women’s contingent.

In the men’s competition, G.J. Gardner Homes NZ Beach Tour champions Tom Reid and Jack McManaway pair up again on the world stage.

Alani Nicklin and James Sadlier will play together with Ben O’Dea back in the mix with Thomas Hartles.

Volleyball New Zealand Beach High Performance Coach Jason Lochhead says the event is a critical one for the players looking to move up the international pecking order.

“The Asian Champs is always a big event for us, the best teams in Asia are always there,” Lochhead said.

“This is our chance to show how strong we are and test ourselves with some great FIVB points up for grabs."

The competition gets under on June 23 in Fuzhou, China.

Senior Asian Beach Volleyball Championships 2023
June 23-26
Fuzhou, China

Thomas Reid
Jack McManaway
James Sadlier
Alani Nicklin
Ben O’Dea
Thomas Hartles

Alice Zeimann
Olivia Macdonald
Kiana Stevenson
Rosa Vesty

Support Staff
Jason Lochhead – Coach
Craig Seuseu – Coach
Brad Takai – Physiotherapist
Josh Cox - Mental Skills Coach

Looking back on European season

VNZ High Performance Coach feels the Games Beach Volleyball teams made great progress and got a lot from the Birmingham experience.

"We'd have certainly liked some medals, but in the end just couldn't get across the line. Brad and Sam played well but ultimately just had a bad game at the wrong time - if they'd had it in a pool match or semi final they'd have been fine, but you can't do it in in a knockout match. Then Shaunna and Alice showed how close they could push the very top sides there, especially in those tight ones against Canada."  

For the VNZ contingent the Games experience was enjoyable overall, linking up with fellow kiwis from different disciplines, and the facilities and experience at the Beach Volleyball centre.

"Was great to be part of the New Zealand team, the way they made everyone feel included was something special, things like the flag bearer announcements etc. We spent a bit of time watching the 3 on 3 basketball as their court was right next to ours."

The hardest part for Lochhead was watching his teams take on their Birmingham opponents while sitting in the stand.
"As a coach you feel quite helpless! We're sat quite a way away in a special coaches area that's quite removed from the court - but you could see the teams putting their plans into action, and going through their processes at time outs, taking a few seconds to reset then going over what's working and what needs to change."  

After a summer campaign through Europe with Brad Fuller and Sam O'Dea taking victory at the Futures event in Giardini Naxos in Italy and both teams making main draws, the experience will stand our athletes in good stead.

"Across the season, there's been huge progress in the World Tour events where the competition is even tougher than the Commonwealth Games. With the men winning the tournament in Italy against a very tough field and Shaunna and Alice qualifying for quality tournaments we're in a really good space overall."

So close

The Beach Ferns have gone down fighting to a determined comeback in the Bronze medal match at Smithfields at Birmingham 2022.

After confidently taking the first set 21-10, Vanuatu's Miller Pata and Sherysyn Toko battled back into the match - the Ferns had a match ball late in the second set but couldn't take it, opening the door to a third set and a Vanuatu win.

"I'm super proud of our effort to get to the semis. Obviously a disappointing finish, but we still played really well, 99% of the time - was just a shame we didn't put away at the end," said Shaunna Polley.

Polley and Alice Zeimann started with a roar, getting out to a 7-0 lead early through a mixture of placement, power and fine defence. It wasn't until the Ferns were 15-5 up that Pata and Toko started to get into the game, but by then the deficit was too great and the kiwis closed the set out 21-10.

The Vanuatu pair showed the full range of subtleties at the net, finishing points with placement and style. It was a hard tactic to combat, and the second set went down to the wire with neither side able to get clear. The Ferns clawed back a two point Vanuatu lead to draw level at 19-all and 20-all and despite having a match ball, eventually went down 20-22.

Pata and Toko carried their momentum into the second set, working their soft touch tactic effectively. The Ferns drew level at 8-8 through a quality Polley dig and finish, before eventually going down 10-15 in the third.

Despite not taking home silverware, the Ferns can be proud of their performances through the tournament, particularly pushing gold medallists Canada all the way twice.

"The body was definitely feeling it after a few really big games, but I think, mainly it's all mental. So that's something we'll definitely take away to improve on for next time," said Shaunna Polley.

"I think those great matches (against Canada) definitely took their toll. It was great experience. Thank you so much to our supporters, we really appreciate it. And also a special shout out to everyone as Smithfield. They treated us so well and met us every day with a smile. So we're just really grateful to be here," said Alice Zeimann.

From here the Ferns head to a training camp, before joining the Asian tour.

NZL Zeimann/Polley 1 - 2 Pata/Toko VAN
Set 1
21 - 10
Set 2
20 - 22
Set 3
10 - 15

Full stats


Bring on the Bronze match

Alice Zeimann and Shaunna Polley pushed the fancied Canadian duo Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan all the way - after another epic extended first set, the kiwis showed all ther skills and teamwork before going down 1-2.

"We're super stoked," said Shaunna Polley. We've always looked up to them as athletes and players, and to go toe to toe with them, with such long rallies, it's an awesome feeling."

The Beach Ferns will play Vanuatu pair Miller Pata and Sherysyn Toko for Bronze at 7am Monday NZ time, which will be live on SKY Sport 6 / Birmingham 3 or Sky channel 056. 

"A big part of tomorrow will just be concentrating on ourselves, and just playing our game, trying to enjoy it and leaning in to the pressure, we're excited," said Alice Zeimann.

Like the two teams' pool match, the first set went the distance, with the kiwis closing it out this time 31-29, with both sides having multiple set balls and saves. The set started with the teams going point for point, before Canada took a slight edge - but the kiwis fought back with a clutch Zeimann ace bringing it back to 20-19 and a desperate Polley dive locking it up at 20-all. In the end a Humana-Paredes soft block drifted out to give the Ferns the set, to their delight.

The Canadians took control of the second set early and extended their lead to 17-9, before the Ferns could get back in the game, but it was too big a hill to climb.

The third set again went largely point for point, with the Ferns pushing hard and saving rallies with some big Polley serves getting vital points, and a mix of power and subtlety at the net. They earned a side out at 11-10 with a well placed Zeimann touch, which she followed with a massive block to get to 13-13. With both teams desperate to close the match out, the Canadians' experience showed, despite a tremendous Polley dig and soft touch at the death, taking the third set 19-17 and the match.

It was a performance to be proud of, before re-focusing on the match for third place and a medal.

"Every time we play it becomes more and more comfortable," said Alice Zeimann. "Shaunna is great, she's been in that moment before and the fact we have such good chemistry just really makes it easy on the court."

CAN Pavan/Melissa 2 - 1 Zeimann/Polley NZL
Set 1
29 - 31
Set 2
21 - 14
Set 3
19 - 17

Full stats




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