Beach Ferns pair of Alice Zeimann and Shaunna Polley made history on Saturday night, claiming gold in the final of the Asian Beach Volleyball Championships in Thailand.
The Kiwi duo, ranked 44th in the world, were too good for Australia’s world number three pair of Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar, taking a 21-18, 26-24 win at the Ban Nong Ya Ma Community School in Roi Et.
The gold medal is New Zealand’s first at the Asian Women's Championships level since the inception of the competition in 2000 and comes after Zeimann and Polley finished fourth at the 2021 event.
Speaking the morning after the historic victory, Zeimann was elated at how the things unfolded over the past few days in Thailand.
"We're feeling good, obviously we're super-stoked with how the past week has been," Zeimann said.
"We took it one game at a time, we didn't know how we were going to go. We wanted to play really hard and aggressive. We have a great team in Jason Lochhead our coach and Craig Seuseu and our physio Brad Takai were all amazing and we felt really supported."
Zeimann said the team's effort in the final was particularly rewarding in delivering in the pressure moments on the back of their recent Commonwealth Games experience.
"I'm really proud of how we pulled off the game plans under pressure. I think we really executed when we needed to and also when things weren't going to plan we were adaptable and playing really free, which I'm stoked about. Obviously in those pressure games it's hard to lean into the pressure sometimes so we're really happy with how we dealt with that situation."
The Beach Ferns now head back to New Zealand for some well-earned break time after what has been a hectic few months on the road.
"We're going to spend some time with family and enjoy the post-Commonwealth Games and post-Asian Champs success bubble because we didn't really get that after Comm Games," Zeimann said. Then we're going to get back with our team and train really hard and prepare for the New Zealand summer and maybe some overseas events at the end of the year."
Zeimann and Polley made a solid start on Saturday night (NZ time) against the Tokyo 2020 Olympic silver-medallists to take the action-packed first set 21-18. They surged to a five-point lead at 18-13 in the second set before Australia stormed back, with Clancy attacking effectively and Artacho del Solar producing well-placed ace serves to tie the match at 18-18.
After the score was squared at 20-20, both teams fought to 24-all, when a spike from Clancy went wide which saw New Zealand net a crucial point to move ahead 25-24 before Zeimann solidly blocked Clancy to win the last point for her team and claim the historic title.
The number one New Zealand duo, who finished fourth at the recent Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, were unbeaten at the tournament, topping their group before a Round of 16 win over Kazakhstan.
In the last eight, the Kiwis sent out the defending champion duo from Thailand 21-16, 24-22 and then followed that effort up with another outstanding performance in the last four - bouncing Chinese pair Xia Xinyi and Lin Meimei 21-19, 21-15.
Two other New Zealand pairs were competing at the event with Olivia MacDonald and Jasmine Milton and Katie Sadlier and Maya Dickson also in action in pool play.
Click here for full results and standing from the Asian Beach Volleyball Championships.