Australia qualified for men’s Finals, as Japan, joined by New Zealand, advanced to women’s Finals

Nakhon Pathom, Thailand, June 19, 2021 – Australia and Japan dominated the FIVB Beach Volleyball AVC Continental Cup Semi-finals, with the former outplaying Japan in the men’s final and the latter overcoming the searing heat and New Zealand in the women’s showdown at the competition venue in front of Mida Grande Hotel Dhavaravati Nakhon Pathom here on Saturday.

In the men’s event, Australia emerged as the eventual winners, while Japan came in second place. Kazakhstan and the Philippines shared the third place, with Lebanon in fifth position. Japan ruled the women’s division, with New Zealand and the Philippines in second and third places respectively.

As winners in the AVC Continental Cup Semi-finals, Australia now join Thailand (hosts), China (East), Qatar (defending champions), New Zealand (Oceania), Iran (Central), Oman (West) and Indonesia (Southeast) to strut their stuff in the Finals at the same competition site here from June 25 to 27, vying for the lone ticket to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

However, the women’s event will see Japan and New Zealand, top two teams from the Semi-finals, advance to the Finals, where Thailand (hosts), China (East), Australia (defending champions), Vanuatu (Oceania), Kazakhstan (Central) and Indonesia (Southeast) have already qualified. Only the eventual winning team (federation) in the Finals will make the cut for the next month’s Tokyo Olympics.

Fresh from winning the Semi-finals, Australia proved to be one of the strong teams to be reckoned with in the Finals. Christopher McHugh/Damien Schumann captured the 2020 Asian Championship title in Udon Thani, Thailand aside from the World Tour 2-Star event in Phnom Penh the same year and the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018.

Against Yoshiumi Hasegawa/Takumi Takahashi in the first final match on Saturday, McHugh/Schumann proved their talents to power past the Japan 1’s duo 2-0 (21-19, 21-11) in 35 minutes to hand Australia an initial 1-0 lead.

“We beat Japan today and I’m feeling very good. We got a couple dayoffs here before getting back to training. The court is close to the hotel and we just walked here,” Schumann said. “We would like to thank Thailand Volleyball Association for running an amazing job here,” McHugh added.

Maximilian Guehrer/Zachery Schubert are also strong in terms of competition experiences they have gained since they have first partnered for the 2014 FIVB World U21 Championship in Larnaka, Cyprus. The Australian tandem finished third at the 2020 Asian Championship and 9th at the World Tour 4-Star event in Espinho, Portugal in 2019.

Guehrer/Schubert also made their mark in the Saturday’s second final match against Kensuke Shoji/Masato Kurasaka to brush off the Japan 2’s duo 2-0 (21-16, 21-18) in 41 minutes to help Australia completely end the Japan’s determined challenge.

With a clean sweep of two-match victory, Australia not only captured the men’s title in the AVC Continental Cup Semi-finals, but also booked their Finals berth.

In the women’s final showdown between Japan and New Zealand on Saturday, Akiko Hasegawa/Azusa Futami spent 35 minutes in seeing off New Zealand 1’s Francesca Kirwan/Olivia Macdonald 2-0 (21-15, 21-14) to give Japan a 1-0 advantage.

However, Alice Zeimann/Shaunna Marie Polley performed superbly to avenge their first team’s loss by beating Japan 2’s Chiyo Suzuki/Yurika Sakaguchi in a tight encounter 2-0 (22-20, 21-19).

The deciding Golden Match was held in a sunny midday with temperature exceeding 37 degrees celsius. Japan’s Chiyo Suzuki/Yurika Sakaguchi struggled in their tough encounter against old foes Alice Zeimann/Shaunna Marie Polley, but edged past the strong rivals in a closely-contested match 2-0 (21-18, 24-22). Japan eventually beat New Zealand 2-1 to capture the women’s title.

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