Damien Schumann and Chris McHugh were crowned the 2021 Australian National Champions in Manly on Sunday, at the end of one of the most competitive Australian Beach Volleyball Championships in recent history. With over 80 teams overall participating across the men's and women's draw, the tournament doubled as the third leg of the 2021 Australian Beach Volleyball Tour (ABVT).
In the gold medal match the 2018 Commonwealth Champions faced Thomas Hodges and Paul Burnett, who had previously defeated number-2 seed Zachery Schubert and Max Guehrer 2-0 (21-19, 21-18) in a tense semifinal. Burnett was the defending Australian champion, having won the 2020 national title paired with 23-year-old Queenslander Marcus Ferguson.
The final was also a replay of the Glenelg Beach Open gold medal match. Just like two weeks ago, it was Schumann and McHugh who prevailed in three sets (21-15, 17-21, 15-9 ) to secure the title and their third ABVT gold medal in a row.
“It’s always exciting to have a three-setter for the decider at the Australian Championships,” McHugh said. “It's great that we got to play and for Volleyball Australia to put the tour on this year it's been a fantastic achievement. I couldn’t be happier that we came away with the win.”
Schumann recognised that once again Hodges and Burnett proved to be tough opponents. “They have been playing really well, they’ve been getting better at every event. We had a tough three setter against them a couple of weeks ago [in Glenelg] and we had a tough three setter again today. Chris did really well at the net and I am really happy we got the win. Australian Champions sounds really nice,” he said.
The loss left Hodges and Burnett disappointed, but eager to come back stronger and mount another challenge in the next leg of the ABVT.
“We were expecting another tough game, but we thought we had this one. We’ll keep training hard and come back for the next one. We’ll try to do one better,” said Hodges.
In the bronze medal match Tokyo Olympic hopefuls Schubert and Guehrer confidently outplayed number-8 seed Casey Grice and Aaron Crook 2-0 (21-12, 21-13). Schubert scored as many as six aces and Guehrer provided some great blocking to secure the third place, the same result they achieved at the Glenelg Beach Open.
Schubert said the pair were unhappy with their losing effort in the morning’s semifinal, but they managed to navigate the highs and lows of the day and keep focused on a podium finish.
“We knew we had to get our heads right [after the semifinal]. We knew that we had to get away, reconnect again and come back strong. We did that, so we're happy that we came away and actually delivered the result,” Schubert said.
Earlier in the day McHugh/Schumann had won their semifinal against Grice/Crook 2-0 (21-7, 21-17). It was the second time they defeated the number-8 seed after beating them in straight sets (21-13, 21-16) in a pool match on Saturday.
The ABVT will now move to Queensland as the Tour Finals will be hosted at Coolangatta Beach, QLD from the 12th to the 14th March 2021.