Australian's ready to storm the sand in China

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The last time the rest of the beach volleyball world saw Australia’s Isaac Kapa and Chris McHugh, they were standing on a podium in Austria proudly clutching bronze medals.

Team Kapa/McHugh had steamrolled their way past some of the biggest names on the world tour to achieve not only their best International results, but also one of the best ever by an Australian men’s team.

And if you truly are only as good as your last outing, than the Australians would be feeling pretty good about themselves this week.

But it’s because that was their last outing that there is an air of mystery about their return to the International stage at the FIVB tour-opening Fuzhou Open in China this week.

They’ll be joined there by Australia’s top-seeded women, Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy, and the exciting young men’s pairing of Casey Grice and Cole Durant.

Kapa and McHugh did not play a single event together over the local summer, after Kapa underwent shoulder surgery.

He had to watch on as McHugh teamed up with veteran Bo Soderberg, the pair winning two of the three Australian tour events.

And top women’s team, Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy, come to China having suffered a shock loss at the final event on the Australian Grand Prix circuit.

READY TO GO 

But as the saying goes, write either team off at your peril. Both teams go into Fuzhou seeded fifth, which would suggest they are not to trifled with.

“I think it’s actually made us a stronger team, if anything, having not been able to play together over the summer,” McHugh said.

“Isaac’s fully fit, ready to go. He’s been in unrestricted training now for seven weeks. We’re hitting this event with a full head of steam.

“It’s always hard seeing your playing partner play, and not being able to play yourself. But he just wants to get back out there.”

Bawden and Clancy are about to set out for their third International season, and are not letting a hiccup on Perth’s Scarborough Beach derail their plans.

“It was definitely disappointing not to finish off the event in Perth, but we were really pleased with the training block we put in this summer,” Bawden said.

“We know it’s going to serve us well once we get into the middle part of the year, with better recovery than most of our competitive group.

“Taliqua and I have been recording PB’s in all sorts of physical tests, which is something we can use as a confidence boost.”

OLYMPIC EXPERIENCE 

Bawden has already been to two summer Olympics, in 2000 as part of the women’s indoor team, and in 2012 with Becchara Palmer in the beach volleyball competition.

With Rio just over 12 months away, she’s getting excited again, and is particularly excited about the potential of her younger partner.

“It’s really inspiring to be able to see what she’s able to do,” she said.

“They way she can play is not something that you see a lot on women’s sand in volleyball at all.

“Her physical talent and dimensions are obviously a great grounding point, but I think what I get to have an opportunity to be part of is her personal qualities as an athlete and a teammate.

“In terms of what she can do with the ball, for sure that’s exciting for me to see and to work with, but being able to work with someone who is so committed to finding ways to get success as a beach volleyball pair is where I get the most inspiration.

“She’s really, for her age, well ahead of the curve in being single minded and very sure of herself and what she needs to bring, while not shying away from expectations.”

EXPECTATIONS 

McHugh says he and Kapa are also aware of the expectations on them, especially after last year’s bronze medal.

“We definitely showed in Klagenfurt at our best we can mix it with the world’s best,” McHugh said.

“The top ten teams in China, the current World Champions are there, the winners of the last couple of events last year are there.

“Once you got on the world tour, there’s nothing but quality players and quality teams out there, so it will be a real good test for us, and really good barometer for where we are at this stage of the season.”

Both Kapa/McHugh and Bawden/Clancy go into Fuzhou seeded fifth, while Grice and Durant will need to win their way through qualifying.

The Fuzhou Open runs from April 21 to April 26. Full details, and live scoring, can be found at www.fivb.org

The Australian Beach Volleyball squad is proudly supported by generous sponsors Hancock Prospecting and the Georgina Hope Foundation.

Referee appointments and International confirmations

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It has been a busy period for our International referees with a number of appointments for International tournaments confirmed.

Tracey Holmes joins Volleyball Australia Board

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Leading Australian and International sports broadcaster Tracey Lee Holmes has been appointed to the Volleyball Australia Board of Directors.

Volleyball Australia President, Craig Carracher, said Holmes would bring to Volleyball Australia not just the experience of working with some of the world’s biggest and most revered media networks, but also the experience of working at 10 Olympic Games.

The National Women’s Program commenced the ‘90’s ranked 6th in the Asian zone and maintained this ranking throughout the decade, due in part, to the strong nature of women’s volleyball in Asia with teams like China (1st), Japan (7th) and Korea (8th) all ranked in the top 8 of the world at the time. 

2014GP HynesPassing

With the support of the Australian Institute of Sport (from 1993 to 2004) the Australian Senior Women's Volleyball Team entered the new century with an appearance in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, where they placed 9th, beating Kenya in the process and taking a set off Croatia.  With this result, the Program achieved its highest ever world ranking of 14th following the games. 

A new look Women’s Team qualified for a second World Championships in September 2001, and achieved a 6th place finish at the 2001 Asian Championships in the same year. In 2002 Australia competed in the 2002 World Championships held in Germany eventually finishing 21st at the event.

Australia was unsuccessful in their qualification attempts for the 2006 World Championships and, after a period of rebuilding following the move to a camps-based Program, through the revitalised Women’s AVL competition format sees the team keen to build on their 9th placing at the 2013 Asian Championships. Their historic inclusion in the 2014 Women’s Grand Prix (Division 3) will surely see the team improve as they additional match experience against quality teams ranked between 13 and 25 in the world.

 

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