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Top seeds prevail in finals of New Zealand Beach Volleyball Open

New Zealand Beach Volleyball Tour winners (left to right) Mike Watson, Sam O'Dea, Shaunna Polley, Julia Tilley
Mount Maunganui, New Zealand, February 2, 2014 - The world-ranked Vanuatu pairing of Henriette Iatika and Miller Elwin outlasted New Zealand's top women's combination of Shaunna Polley and Julia Tilley 2-1 (18-21, 21-12, 15-8) to take the women's title at the New Zealand Beach Volleyball Open on Sunday.

Their win was matched by the top men's seeds, Tauranga's Sam O'Dea and Mike Watson, who fought back against a determined challenge from the young combination of Tom Hartles and Ben O'Dea 2-1 (21-9, 18-21,15-12), to make it three wins out of three events on the National Tour.

Polley and Tilley had earlier in the day comfortably overcome in their semifinal the team that downed them in last week's Waikato Open, Melissa Ruru and Danielle Quigley, and looked to be continuing their dominance at the start of the final, when they took the first set 21-18 against Elwin and Iatika, who had placed 9th in the 2013 World Championships. Polley made some great blocks against her more experienced opponents, while Tilley managed several points by swiping off the Vanuatu blocks. 

In the second and third sets, the visiting women switched on the afterburners, mixing up their attack well with some effective cut shots, and well-placed spikes through the middle of the court, splitting the Kiwi team, who were forced to play catch-up throughout both sets.

Polley and Tilley had the consolation of taking out the overall Tour Championship, and with it the important No.1 New Zealand ranking, as they head into international play later this year.

The Men's final was a procession in the first set with the more experienced Watson/O'Dea combination, unbeaten in New Zealand this summer, jumping out to an early lead on the back of some inspirational play by a fired-up Mike Watson and cool-headed net plays by Sam O'Dea, the tallest of the three O'Dea brothers.

In the second set, Ben O'Dea's jump float serves became an effective weapon for the younger team, with North Shore's up-and-coming Tom Hartles working hard on both his serve-receive, and attack play to even the match up and force a third set tie-breaker. The last set again went point for point, until a final pair of unforced errors by the Hartles/B.O'Dea combination gave the match, title and New Zealand Tour Championship to their opponents.

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