Pacific Mini Games Volleyball tournament reaches mid-point
Papua New Guinea lead the men’s section with nine points from three matches, with Wallis & Futuna equal on points after three wins and a loss. They are followed by New Caledonia (2-1, six points), Tuvalu (2-2, six points), Vanuatu (three points) and Nauru (0-5, no points).
New Caledonia lead the women’s competition with 14 points from five matches, followed by Tahiti (3-1, 10 points), Fiji (3-1, nine points), Papua New Guinea (2-2, six points), Tuvalu (1-3, three points), Wallis & Futuna (1-3, three points) and Nauru (0-5, no points).
The tournament is being played at the new Kafika Stadium on the island of Wallis in the Pacific French Territory of Wallis and Futuna. In terms of the facility, the Wallis and Futuna volleyball community consider themselves winners already as the Pacific Mini Games will leave them with a playing venue to be enjoyed for many years to come.
On the court, Day 1 saw long-time Pacific Games women’s champions Tahiti lose to New Caledonia in a thrilling five-setter (19-25, 25-20, 18-25, 25-23, 15-8), the key being the ability of the New Caledonian defence to counteract the spiking power of the Tahitian women. Tahitian captain and former French international Valeria Vaki was strong at the net, with young player Kahaialani Taliraa coming off the bench to score valuable points for Tahiti. However, New Caledonia’s team coordination was good, with Ramona Aritoehau performing well.
The top-seeded Fijian women were unbeaten after three matches with wins over Wallis & Futuna, Papua New Guinea and Nauru, setting up an exciting clash against New Caledonia in the next round.
On the men’s side, Papua New Guinea have three wins on the board and are looking strong to make the final after a good 3-1 victory over Wallis and Futuna in front of a packed house of very vocal supporters for both teams. This match was a replay of the 2011 Pacific Games semifinal, which Wallis and Futuna won on their way to the title. However, on this occasion Papua New Guinea came to play. In the first set, the PNG block was totally dominant and shut out the Wallis and Futuna attackers. In the second set, Wallis came back strongly, with captain Vitali Tupou attacking with power and entertaining the crowd as he celebrated points. The third set went point-for-point, with PNG coming back to win 26-24. PNG came out strong in the fourth set and managed to build and maintain a comfortable lead, taking the set 25-21 and with it the match.
The tournament is being played on a round-robin format with all six men’s teams and all seven women’s teams playing each other in pool play and then the top two teams playing off for the gold medal and the third- and fourth-placed teams for the bronze.
The women’s match to be played on Monday between Tahiti and Fiji is now critical and will effectively be the women’s semifinal, while the men’s match between New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea will determine the finalists for the men’s competition. Monday will be a big day for volleyball in the Pacific.
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