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Fierce competition expected at Oceania zonal tournament

The venue for the Oceania Zonal tournament of the AVC Continental Cup on Mt Maunganui Beach in New Zealand
Mt Maunganui, New Zealand?February 14, 2012 – The AVC Beach Volleyball Continental Cup Oceania zonal tournament is all set to begin on Thursday at the idyllic Mt Maunganui Beach in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand with a place in the finals on everyone’s mind.

The tournament format will be single elimination with the top three countries proceeding to the final stage, with the winners there sealing a coveted place at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Competing in the men’s section are teams from Australia, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu and hosts New Zealand, who qualified through sub-zonal tournaments held in Vanuatu, Samoa and Northern Marianas in 2011.

It is likely to be a fierce competition, with a number of tight contest set to be fought. New Zealanders Kirk Pitman and Jason Lochhead, regulars on the FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH World Tour, have split for this competition, pairing with rising stars, brothers Ben and Sam O’Dea respectively. They will be tested by the Australian pairings of Josh Slack and Isaac Kapa and Chris McHugh and Sam Boehm. Papua New Guinea travelled to New Zealand early for some pre-tournament practice at the New Zealand Open, and will hope to edge Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu (whose planned preparation at the NZ open was unfortunately disrupted by a cyclone which halted their travel plans).

In the women’s section Australia appear to have the upper hand with dynamic pairings from athletes who often compete on the World Tour, including Sydney Olympic gold medallist from 2000, Natalie Cook, who partners Tamsin Hinchley. They will be joined by Louise Bawden and Becchara Palmer – currently ranked in the top 20 in the world.  However not to be under-estimated are the teams from Vanuatu, Elwin Miller/Henriette Iataki and Joyce Joshua /Linline Matauata, who also have World Tour experience and will want to test the Australians and New Zealanders (Melissa Ruru/Lydia McCormack and Micah Lindsay-Brown/Julia Tilley). The interest in the women’s division continues with the little known Fijian and Samoan teams yet to arrive.

Matches will be held from February 16 to 18 with key matches scheduled between 4pm and 6pm.The event is open to the public with no admission fee.

So far, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, Japan, Kazakhstan and Sri Lanka have qualified for both the men’s and women’s finals while Chinese Taipei and India join the women’s bracket and Hong Kong and Iran join the men’s.

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