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Host teams dominate first leg of New Zealand International Beach Volleyball tournament


Auckland, New Zealand, January 21, 2014 - The top New Zealand men’s beach volleyball teams of Mike Watson and Sam O’Dea and the women’s duo of Julia Tilley and Shauna Polley have won the first leg of the 2014 New Zealand Beach International Beach Volleyball Tour at the Mairangi Bay Beach Volleyball Center at Mairangi Bay, North Shore in Auckland.

Mike Watson and Sam O’Dea showed the benefit of the pre-season training and playing in Queensland, Australia with a powerful performance in the men’s final over Ben O’Dea and Thomas Hartles. The first set was dominated from the outset by Watson and Sam O’Dea as they spiked powerfully and made a series of plays to gain the early momentum. A small fight back by Ben O’Dea and Thomas Hartles saw them gain a little momentum, but not enough to get back into the set. Sam O’Dea finished with some big blocking at the net to take the first set 21-15.

The second set saw the roles reversed. Thomas Hartles made some spectacular defensive plays, and Ben O’Dea transitioned with power spiking to jump to a 12-9 lead. Watson then left his mark on the game with some dynamic defense and cross court spiking, to bring them back into the set at 18-18. The remaining points were furious and intense, with both sides having opportunities to gain the advantage. Hartles and O’Dea got the key point to win the second set 22-20.

Sam O’Dea took control of the third set with several keys blocks at the net. Ben O’Dea and Thomas Hartles could not recover from falling behind early, and Mike Watson continued to make plays in the back court. Watson and O’Dea completed the third set 15-10, and the match 2-1.

Earlier in the day Sam O’Dea and Mike Watson had to fight to beat Morgan Seymour and Darryl Lewis 2-1 (21-13) (19-21) (15-8) in the first semifinal. Ben O’Dea and Thomas Hartles also took three sets to beat Paora Morunga and Griffen Muller 2-1 (20-22) (21-18) (15-5).

The women’s final was a seesaw battle between Julia Tilley and Shauna Polley, the number one ranked New Zealand team and third seeded New Zealand team Sonia Dunn and Carli Botes. Last week Dunne and Botes had upset Tilley and Polley in the New Zealand Beach Championship at the same venue.

Sonia Dunne was in sublime form throughout the tournament showing a range of deft cut and roll shots, and many athletic saves in the back court. This combined with some massive blocking at the net by Carli Botes saw them lead the first set from the outset. They won the set 21-11.

The second set saw a complete reversal, with Tilley and Polley fighting their way back into the match with some fantastic scrambling defense, and subtle ‘knuckle’ shots over and past the large block of Carli Botes. Tilley and Polley won the set 21-10.

The third set was a lot closer as the teams became desperate to win each point. The scores were level at 6-6 and 9-9. The break happened as both Botes and Dunne made a mistake to fall behind by two. Tilley and Polley then made some great defensive plays to complete the victory taking the set 15-11, and the match 2-1.

The Women’s semifinals were also tight matches with Tilley and Polley getting revenge from last week’s loss at the New Zealand Beach Championships semifinal. They defeated Danielle Quigley and Melissa Ruru 2-1 (22-20, 19-21, 15-7)

The 2014 International Beach Volleyball tour now heads to Karapiro for the weekend tournament on January 24 to 26. The New Zealand Open is to be held on Mt Maunganui Beach from January 31 to February 2.

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