China’s Ha Likejiang & Wu Jiaxin and New Zealand’s Shaunna Polley & Alice Zeimann lived up to their ‘entry-point status’ and earned the titles at the season’s first Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Futures event, held this week in Mount Maunganui Beach, the first-ever world-level tournament hosted by New Zealand.
Ha & Wu, Polley & Zeimann snatch season’s first Futures trophies
Teams from China, Canada, USA and hosts New Zealand make Mount Maunganui Beach podium
Published 05:51, 19 Mar 2023
The semifinals and the medal matches were streamed live on the **Beach Volleyball World YouTube channel**.
Another home pair, main draw top seeds Sam O'Dea & Ben O'Dea, and US qualifiers David McKienzie & Benjamin Vaught completed the men’s podium. New Zealand’s Olivia MacDonald & Julia Tilley took the women’s silver, while the bronze went to Canada’s Shanice Marcelle & Lea Monkhouse.
It was the second consecutive Futures gold for 30-year-old Ha Likejiang and 29-year-old Wu Jiaxin. The Chinese team also won November’s tournament in Sohar. This time the second-seeded pair took the long road to the top. After starting off with a win, but losing the Pool B final to Kiwis Thomas Reid & John McManaway in the tie-breaker, Ha & Wu had to win the next four matches in a row to celebrate as tournament champions. And they did it without dropping a set. In Sunday’s final, they produced a 2-0 (21-17, 21-13) shutout of home favourites O’Dea & O’Dea.
For New Zealand’s brothers, 32-year-old Sam O’Dea & 30-year-old Ben O’Dea, it was the first Beach Pro Tour appearance as a team and might well be the last before retirement. Sam had two previous Futures podiums with Bradley Fuller, a Giardini Naxos gold and a Balikesir silver, while Ben had a Songkhla Futures gold with Thomas Reid. Together, they won all of their matches in Mount Maunganui Beach, except for the final, and settled for silver.
The really long road to the podium was taken by 43-year-old David McKienzie and 26-year-old Benjamin Vaught. The Americans made the main draw after winning two games in Thursday’s qualifiers. They lost their first pool match, but then won three in a row to reach the semifinals, where they lost to Ha & Wu. In the bronze medal match, the Americans, seeded 13th in the main draw, mastered a 2-0 (21-14, 21-11) sweep of New Zealanders Thomas Hartles & Thomas Heijs. For either of the two US players, it was the rookie appearance on the Beach Pro Tour.
29-year-old Shaunna Polley and 24-year-old Alice Zeimann, seeded in number one, swept the home-sand tournament without losing a single set in all five of their matches to celebrate their first Beach Pro Tour podium. Previously, they had a gold medal from the 2021 Cortegaca 1-star on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour. Their glorious run in Mount Maunganui Beach was crowned by an emphatic 2-0 (21-14, 21-12) victory over compatriots Olivia MacDonald & Julia Tilley.
"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," Alice Zeimann told volleyballnz.org.nz.
"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," Shaunna Polley added.
The Mount Maunganui Beach silver was also the first podium finish for 27-year-old Olivia MacDonald and 33-year-old Julia Tilley on the Beach Pro Tour. The 10th-seeded team also won all their matches at the tournament, except for the all-Kiwi final against Polley & Zeimann.
32-year-old Shanice Marcelle and 23-year-old Lea Monkhouse also made it to their first world-level podium in Mount Maunganui Beach. The eighth-seeded Canadians lost to Polley & Zeimann twice during the tournament, in the Pool A final and in the semis, but won all their other matches in New Zealand to grab the bronze. In an all-Canadian bronze medal match, Marcelle & Monkhouse delivered a 2-0 (21-16, 21-18) upset of fourth-seeded compatriots Darby Dunn & Olivia Grace Furlan.