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 Press Release
Australia, New Zealand, Vanuatu, Samoa qualify for the finals of AVC Continental Cup

Kirk Pitman of New Zealand spikes against Joshua Slack of Australia in the finals
Mt. Maunganui, New Zealand, February 18, 2012 – Australia claimed the men’s and women’s gold medals on the third and last day of the AVC Beach Volleyball Continental Cup Oceania zonal tournament on Saturday after defeating New Zealand’s men and Vanuatu’s women in the finals.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand women downed Samoa 4-0, while Samoa’s men edged Fiji via a golden set to win the bronze medals.

Australia’s men and women’s teams qualified for the finals of AVC Continental Cup along with the men’s teams from New Zealand (silver medal) and Samoa (bronze), and the women’s teams from Vanuatu (silver) and New Zealand (bronze).

They will join qualifiers from the Eastern, Southeastern, Western and Central Zone tournaments, with the eventual winners earning a berth to the London 2012 Olympic Games. The two runners-up will move on to the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Cup.

With the AVC’s five zonal tournaments all finished, the qualifiers for the AVC Continental Cup finals are:

Men: Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam (Southeastern Zone); China, Japan and Hong Kong (Eastern Zone); Oman, Bahrain and Qatar (Western Zone), Iran, Kazakhstan and Sri Lanka (Central Zone); Australia, New Zealand and Samoa (Oceania Zone);

Women: Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia (Southeastern Zone); China, Japan and Chinese Taipei (Eastern Zone); Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka and India (Central Zone), Australia, Vanuatu and New Zealand (Oceania Zone).

Australia 4, New Zealand 0
The much vaunted encounter between Australia and New Zealand proved to be a major disappointment for the local fans. From the first match between the hosts’ top pair of Kirk Pitman and Ben O'Dea and Sam Boehm and Isaac Kapa of Australia, it was Australia who dominated, particularly in blocking and strategic service placement. The local Kiwis displayed glimpses of class but were unable in all four matches to combat the intense concentration of the Australians.

Australia’s second pair of Boehm and Kapa put on a classy performance to beat Pitman and O'Dea in straight sets (21-9, 22-24) in 32 minutes, while Christopher McHugh and Josh Slack followed up with a 2-0 win over Ben O'Dea and Jason Lochhead in a hard-fought 41 minutes, giving the Aussies a 2-0 lead.

The Kiwis were not discouraged by their losses and rallied strongly in the last two matches, but McHugh and Slack and Boehm and Kapa performed consistently and successively downed New Zealand’s two pairs, both 2-1. They took 61 minutes to beat B. O'Dea and Pitman 21-19, 16-21, 15-13, while Boehm and Kapa defeated Lockhead and S. O'Dea 19-21, 21-18, 15-10 in 47 minutes.

Samoa beat Fiji 3-2
Fiji had to battle back from two games down to beat Samoa in an exciting series to take third. Samoa took a 2-0 lead in the first two matches but Fiji rallied back to win the third and fourth matches to level the scores at 2-2. However, Samoa’s top pair of Afa Lauvai and Toetu Toetuo triumphed 15-10 against Waisele Suka and Aisake Raratabu 15-11 in the golden set, to book a ticket to the final of the AVC Continental Cup.

Australia 3, Vanuatu 1
Vanuatu continued to show signs of improvement, despite their loss to Australia on the final day of competition.

In the first two matches, Australia’s Becchara Palmer and Louise Bawden beat Vanuatu’s Joyce Joshua and Linline Matauatu 2-0 (21-7, 21-16), while 2000 Sydney Olympic Games gold medallist Natalie Cook and partner Tamsin Hinchley took only 29 minutes to beat Vanuatu’s top pair Miller Elwin amd Henriette Iatika 21-12, 21-12, helping the Aussies to a 2-0 lead.

After losing the first two matches, Vanuatu fought back strongly in the third match to the delight of the crowd when Elwin and Iatika, ranked 70th in the world, took the first set 24-22 over Palmer and Bawden. But the Aussies fired back and edged a close second set 21-16. In the tiebreaker, the top two teams battled point-for-point and Elwin and Iatika eventually outclassed their rivals 15-13 in a match that captivated the large crowd for over an hour.

The Aussies regained control of the match in the fourth with Cook and Hinchley capturing the win 21-14, 21-17 and also the gold medal for Australia.

New Zealand 4, Samoa 0
Earlier in the day, the Kiwi women team lived up to their supporters’ expectations with an easy victory over Samoa in straight matches. The hosts’ top pair of Melissa Ruru and Lydia McCormack beat Gasolo Sanele Pio and Samalaulu Faavaega 21-13, 21-11 in the opening match and then managed to down Samoa’s first duo Vaituutuu Taua and Leute Mataipule 21-8, 21-7. Micah Lindsay-Brown and Julia Tilley also sailed to two straightforward wins over their rivals from Samoa.

Gold medal match
Australia 3, Vanuatu 1
AUS 1 vs. VAN 2  2-0 (21-7, 21-16)
AUS 2 vs. VAN 1  2-0 (21-12, 21-12)
AUS 1 vs. VAN 1  1-2 (22-24, 21-12, 17-19)
AUS 2 vs. VAN 2  2-0 (21-14, 21-17)
New Zealand 0, Australia 4
NZL 1 VS. AUS 2  0-2 (9-21, 22-24)
NZL 2 vs. AUS 1  0-2 (22-24, 14-21)
NZL 1 vs. AUS 1  1-2 (19-21, 21-16, 13-15)
NZL 2 vs. AUS 2  1-2 (21-19, 18-21, 10-15)
Third place playoff
New Zealand 4, Samoa 0
NZL 1 vs. SAM 2 2-0 (21-13, 21-11)
NZL 2 vs. SAM 1 2-0 (21-10, 21-5)
NZL 1 vs. SAM 1 2-0 (21-8, 21-7)
NZL 2 vs. SAM 2 2-0 (21-2, 21-8)
Fiji 2, Samoa 3
FJI 1 vs. SAM 2 1-2 (21-19, 19-21,16-18)
FJI 2 vs. SAM 1 1-2 (21-17, 19-21, 12-15)
FJI 1 vs. SAM 1 2-0  (21-16, 21-12)
FJI 2 vs. SAM 2 2-0 (21-15, 21-15)
FJI 1 vs. SAM 1 11-15
Final standings:
Men: 1. Australia, 2. New Zealand, 3. Samoa, 4. Fiji, 5. Vanuatu, 6. Papua New Guinea
Women: 1. Australia, 2. Vanuatu, 3. New Zealand, 4. Samoa, 5. Fiji

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