Volleyball New Zealand confirmed earlier this week the 15 players to take part in the New Zealand A Beach Volleyball programme for the 2023-2024 summer.
Following a trial camp held in Mt Maunganui in October, eight men’s players and seven women’s players have been named in the respective squads. In all, 11 of the squad return from the 2022-2023 summer programme.
On the men’s side, youngsters Calum Stewart and Juraj Krajci are named following a strong campaign overseas where they picked up a bronze medal at the Youth Commonwealth Games in Trinidad and Tobago.
Fellow U-19 Squad representative and Youth Commonwealth Games reserve Michael Tyler also progresses from the Junior ranks. James Sadlier is also returning from last year’s squad after several appearances on the Asian Tour, including a partnership with Beach Black Alani Nicklin at Asian Championships in June.
In the women’s squad, New Zealand Continental Cup Phase One champions Maria Hanabadi and Kiana Stevenson have again been named in the squad of seven.
Earlier this year, the pair teamed up with Beach Ferns Alice Zeimann and Olivia Macdonald, where the girls were able to defeat Australia and Vanuatu to secure a spot in Phase Three of the Paris Olympic qualification pathway next year.
Stevenson is also coming off a successful Youth Commonwealth Games where she won bronze with Tineke Hinton.
Kiana Stevenson in action on the G.J. Gardner Homes NZ Beach Tour presented by Tip Top. Photo by Phototek.co.nz
The programme includes a range of support and development opportunities for the athletes involved including weekly training, focussed camps, individual meetings, video review, a physical programme, wellness checks and coach support wrapped around the G.J. Gardner Homes NZ Beach Tour.
New Zealand A Head Coach Jason Lochhead says the programme is delivering on its purpose to help players make the transition from domestic competition to the international level.
“The NZ A programme is the pathway for players to build High-Performance knowledge and experience we need them to gain before they go onto the world stage to compete against the best in the world,” Lochhead said.
“We’ve already seen some of our NZ A players make that step into the High-Performance arena and have some good success with Tom Reid and Jack McManaway which is really exciting.”
Since the launch of the programme, Lochhead says he’s seen a shift in the standards – both on and off the sand.
“Every step from the last NZ A programme to the one before that, the level is rising with the players who are coming back again.
“Their consistency and knowledge is stronger and better every year which is exciting to see.
“It’s also great to see some young players coming through that have a lot of fire and going out there and giving their all. I think it’s very exciting for the future of New Zealand Beach Volleyball.”
The NZ A Beach programme runs from the end of October to the end of the G.J. Gardner Homes NZ Beach Tour each summer. The 2023-2024 programme includes three camps from November-January in Auckland and Mt Maunganui.
The first camp takes place in Auckland later this week at the Harbour Volleyball Beach Centre in Mairangi Bay.
New Zealand A Beach Programme Squad 2023-2024
Calum Stewart – Bay of Plenty
Daniel Kilpatrick – Harbour
Eric Stratton – Otago
Greg Vukets – Harbour
James Sadlier – Bay of Plenty
Josh Tiplady – Bay of Plenty
Juraj Krajci – Taranaki
Michael Tyler - WECA
Jasmine Pepi-Milton – Harbour
Kalea Norton – Harbour
Katie Sadlier – Bay of Plenty
Kiana Stevenson – Harbour
Maria Hanabadi – Harbour
Meile-Rose Green – Bay of Plenty
Sydney Clough - Harbour
Head Coach: Jason Lochhead
Coaches: Craig Seuseu (Auckland), Mike Watson (Tauranga)
Physio: Brad Takai
Wellness: Colleen Campbell
Administrator: Teresa Highnam