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Another upset surfaces in Australian Beach Volleyball Tour

Chris McHugh dives for the ball in one of the matches of national beach volleyball series in Perth
Perth, Australia, February 2, 2014 - Australia’s best female beach volleyball team has finally been beaten, by a team featuring a player, who once told she was too short to make it. 

One week after Australia’s best male combination was beaten for the first time in two years, Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy had their colours lowered on Scarborough beach by Manly’s Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Nikki Laird.

It took three nail-biting sets for the upset to unfold, with Mariafe and Laird coming from one set down to win 17-21, 21-18, 15-13.

Earlier in the day men’s top seeds Chris McHugh and Isaac Kapa bounced back to winning form, beating Internationals Bo Soderberg from Denmark and Dutchman Michiel Van Dorsten.

But there were worrying signs again for the top seeds, after they dropped the opening set 18-21 before bouncing back 21-18, 15-6. Last week the top seeds lost twice in one day, their first defeat in Australia since coming together in late 2012, and failed to make the final.

For Mariafe and Laird the win turned around what has been a pretty poor start to the summer by the Australian U23 champions.

They fell at the quarterfinal stage at the Glenelg and Surfers Paradise round, but cruised through a tough pool group undefeated before upstaging the top seeds.
Clancy and Bawden had also not been beaten on Australian sand since forming after the London Olympics.

Peru-born Mariafe was told by coaches she was too short to ever make it as a top-class player, and has spent the two years since trying to prove them wrong. The win was also emotional for Laird, who suffered a serious knee injury on last year’s Renault tour.

“We’ve had a bit of a changer of environment, a new coach,” Laird said.

“We’ve been working really hard on our ball control, which really helped us in the windy conditions.”

The Renault National Beach Volleyball tour now heads to St Kilda Beach in Melbourne next weekend.

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