USA and Japan joust for the ball at Sydney's World Tour event
Sydney, Australia, March 17, 2017 - The FIVB’s decision to introduce one and two-star Beach Volleyball World Tour events has already uncovered several exciting new teams, and there were more on show on the opening day of competition at Sydney’s Manly Beach.
Along with three Australian teams, there were wins for Japan, USA, New Zealand, Scotland and Germany.
And although they didn’t win, there was valuable court time for teams from England and Canada.
Many countries are using these events to trial new combinations at the start of a new Olympic cycle, while others are taking the chance to blood new players to test their metal on the world stage.
Americans Whitney Pavlik and Amanda Dowdy have both been playing beach volleyball for several years, but Sydney is just their third tournament together.
They clicked like seasoned campaigners during their 2-0 (21-17, 21-17) win over Japan’s Takemi Nishibori and Marie Wada.
“We just want to see where this partnership goes,” Dowdy said.
“Both of us have goals of being there in 2020, and that’s what we’re working towards.
“We believe that we can get there together, so that’s what we are working towards. It’s our first year of playing together, this is our third tournament together, we want to see what we are capable of.”
Pavlik is relishing being back on the World Tour, and says her passion for the game has been rekindled.
“I’ve been off the World Tour for about a year, so it’s great to come back with a win,” she said.
“We’ve worked so hard in the off-season, so its good to get the rewards, and the things we worked on are showing on the beach.”
Round of 24 and Round of 16 matches on Saturday:
New Zealand’s Julie Tilley and Alice Bain are another new combination, brought together after Tilley’s long-term partner, Shauna Polley, decided to take time off from the game.
After a disappointing first-round loss at the Shepparton World Tour event, they bounced back with an impressive 2-0 (21-12, 21-13) win over Australia’s Sabine Link and Rebecca Ingram.
“We were upset after Shepparton, so we went home and did a lot of mental work,” Bain said.
“International games are obviously a lot harder than national league, so we went and worked with our coach and I think that showed on the court today.”
Tilley admits she’s still getting used to not seeing Polley on the sand alongside her, but is excited for where her new partnership could take her.
She’s also looking forward to the challenge of trying to qualify to represent New Zealand at next year’s Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.
“It was a change for me playing with someone new after playing with the same partner for three years, but I think it’s great for your own game and learning different strategies,” she said.
“All of a sudden after the Commonwealth Games was announced every woman who plays beach volleyball in New Zealand is in for a sniff, and I think that’s really great for us and for the sport.”
Saturday will see teams from Austria, Turkey and Vanuatu join the fray, as the new-look World Tour continues to unearth potential stars of the future.