Pic by Owen Hammond/APAC Sport Media
A day full of thrilling three-set contests has set the scene for an epic round of semi-finals at the FIVB World Tour beach volleyball event at Sydney’s Manly Beach.
Standing tall after a day that proved more challenging than most are the finalists from the Shepparton World Tour event earlier this month, Canada’s Julie Gordon and Camille Saxton and Germany’s Anni Schumacher and Kim Behrens, and Australian teams Louise Bawden and Nikki Laird, and Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Jessyka Ngauamo.
The weather which had held off on Friday turned sour on Saturday, with squally winds and torrential downpours interspersing with brief periods of sunshine as teams struggled to read the conditions.
Gordon and Saxton, who dropped their first set of their Australian tour earlier in the day against Americans Whitney Pavlik and Amanda Dowdy, again looked on top of their game by disposing of another American team, Kimberly Dicello and Emily Stockman in straight sets in their quarter final.
The Canadians managed to blow three match points before winning 21-16, 23-21.
By contrast, Germans Schumacher and Behrens looked down and out against Japan’s Mizoe and Hashimoto, trailing 14-11 in the third set before somehow scrambling back to take the set 18-16 and the match 2-1, 16-21, 21-17, 18-16.
The other two quarter-finals were an all-Australian affair, with Artacho del Solar and Ngauamo turning on a world-class defensive display against their much taller opponents, Phoebe Bell and Becchara Palmer, winning 2-1.
It was an impressive recovery from Ngauamo and del Solar, who squandered three set points in the opening set, but fought back to take the next two and the match 23-25, 22-20, 15-10.
The final match of the day say number one seeds Louise Bawden and Nicole Laird take on home-court favourites, Alice and Johannah Rohkamper.
The Rohkampers thrilled the big home crowd by taking the opening set 25-23 in a thriller, before Bawden and Laird used all their Olympic experience to take the next two sets 21-15, 15-12.
Sunday’s semi-finals will see Bawden and Laird take on Gordon and Saxton, while del Solar and Ngauamo will battle Schumacher and Behrens.