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Vanuatu Volleyball’s final competition outing, before tackling June’s semi-final phase of the Olympic qualifier, happened over the first two weeks of this month in China.

The FIVB World Beach Pro Tour Futures events took place in Pingtan and Wuhan across consecutive weekends, putting the Team Vanuatu National Women’s squad through its paces, looking to hone their game strategies, skills, and high-performance capabilities against some key opposition on the international beach volleyball circuit.

Bella & Lin v China in Wuhan (Photo: BPT Wuhan)

In Pingtan, Linline Matauatu and Bella Lawac cruised through their Pool round and the quarter finals to the semis, where they had their first stumble against a quality team from Italy, resulting in a play-off match for third place against the Brazilian pair of Julhia and Marcela, who won in straight sets, reading their Vanuatu opposition play well.

Tini and Loti v AUS in Pingtan (Photo: BPT Pingtan)

For Sherysyn Toko and Loti Joe, a bump on Day 1 in the Pool round led to a place in the Round of 12, where they went down to the Thai pair of Numwong and Veeradakittikarn, in a hard fought 3 set battle.

Post Pingtan, the squad, led by coach Shanon Zunker, headed north-west to Wuhan and the next FIVB BPT Futures event, where the weekend’s challenges proved a little tougher. Both pairs had mixed results in their Pool Round matches, moving into the Round of 12 schedule on Day 2, where subsequent losses for each team meant an end to their time on the sand in Wuhan.

Overall, results of a 4th place and three 9th placings will become elements for review by the coach and in turn, the team.

Coach Zunker was pleased with some of the positives he saw starting to emerge, with skills practiced in training being implemented in play during competition.

“We are starting to see a little more of our focused skills practised at training, implemented into games, which are then converting into points won – points won in new ways than what the girls are used to.

“Making the semi-finals is a great testament to our program and reinforces that our plan is working, we just need to do more of it,” he said.

“Under high levels of pressure, the girls are still learning to trust the new skills, which takes some time for any athlete.”

Also pleasing for the coach was the opportunity to play more of the teams from the Continental zone.

“Exposure to several of our regional opposition teams was also a valuable exercise, as we are more experienced in the style of play from the Chinese, Indonesian and Thailand teams, who will all be at the Continental Cup finals,” said Zunker.

The team is now back in its final training camp period, looking to build mental strength and confidence in the lead up to those zonal Olympic qualifying finals next month.

“As their coach, I regularly witness them match the skills of all the other international teams, and it is their own belief in themselves that will ultimately produce their best performance.”

The AVC Continental Cup Semi-finals will take place in Ningbo, China from 16 to 18 June, where Vanuatu will come up against teams such as Hong Kong, Indonesia, Qatar and Kyrgyzstan, all vying for the right to join those teams which have already qualified straight to the Phase 3 Finals, with the successful one of the eight finalists securing the one available spot for the Olympics in Paris at the end of July.


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