Credit: volleyball.org.au

Top spot on the elite men’s podium had a European flavour to it at the Australian Beach Volleyball Tour in Canberra with a new combination taking the long path towards a memorable title.

Italian Daniele Acconci and Polish-born Mateusz Zieba entered qualifying with an international wildcard into the event. While Zieba is a familiar face around the ABVT, Acconci is new to the circuit and the pair have only come together this season.

The newly-formed combination had two comfortable victories in qualification on Friday evening to take one of the final places in the main draw.

After dropping the opening set of their first pool match, Acconci and Zieba reeled off four straight victorious sets to finish on top of their group and move into the finals.

In a tough quarter-final, Declan Tiso and Sam Halley claimed the opening set and pushed their opponents all the way, however the international pairing eventually prevailed 3-0 (17-21 24-22, 15-13).

Their semi-final combatants – Christopher Blake and Bryce Poland – beat the tournament’s top seeds on their way to topping pool A and came into the match having dropped just one set in the tournament. However their strong run came to an end with Acconci and Zieba advancing to their first final with a 2-0 (21-14, 21-17) victory.

That set up a final showdown with second seeds Jack Pearse and Joshua Howat. The South Australian-West Australian pair hadn’t dropped a set until they were pushed the distance in their semi-final against Garang Anyang and Justin Schumann, eventually prevailing 15-21, 21-18, 15-13.

Having won eight of their previous nine sets, Acconci and Zieba carried momentum into the final and shot out to a quick lead, claiming the opening set 21-14. The second set was far closer, however Howat and Pearse couldn’t force a decider, with the wildcards getting on top 23-21.

“It’s my first final on the tour, so it’s a great feeling,” said Zieba. “I had a great partner that helped me to do it.

“I cannot describe my emotion. First, because I cannot speak English, and second, because I’m so happy!” said Acconci, who explained the pairing took a single-minded strategy into the match: “Keep the focus on sideout. That’s it.”

In the third place playoff, Anyang and Schumann came back from a set down to beat Blake and Poland 2-1 (14-21, 23-21, 15-8).


Georgia Johnson and Jasmine Fleming entered the Australian Beach Volleyball Tour event in Canberra as top seeds, but without a tour title to their names.

That has all changed now with the Queensland combination coming back from a set down in the quarter-final, semi-final and final to claim the gold medal.

After comfortable Saturday victories to top their pool, Johnson and Fleming were up against Cassie Dodd – who won the U21 title on Friday – and Kyla Sanchez in the last eight. The West Australians claimed the opening set 21-15 and challenged the top seeds in the second (21-18) before Johnson and Fleming outlasted their opponents, claiming the tiebreaker 15-6.

Fifth-seeds Lucia Michalovicova and Sarah Richter entered the semis having not dropped a set throughout the tournament.

The NSW pairing won their seventh straight set 21-17 to take an early lead before the Queenslanders claimed the second set by the same score.

Like their quarter-final, Fleming and Johnson were able to build a big lead in the tiebreaker, winning 15-7 to move into the final.

Awaiting them in the decider were second seeds Caitlin Bettenay and Britt Kendall, with the training partners set to do battle for the Canberra crown.

Bettenay and Kendall got on top early to win the first set 21-15, before Fleming and Johnson forced a tiebreaker with a 21-13 second set victory.

Unlike their quarter and semi, this third set would be a much closer affair, however in the end Fleming and Johnson justified their top seeding to win the tiebreaker (16-14), and the tournament.

“Neither of us have ever won a national tour event, so it’s our first gold medal,” said Johnson “We’re stoked that the hard work we’ve been putting in has paid off.”

Fleming said that lining up against familiar foes in the final presented a challenge they needed to fight hard to overcome.

“It was definitely tough playing against Caitlin and Britt who we train with every day up in Brissie,” said Fleming. “We both know each other so well as teams and as individuals, so we knew that we had to pull out all stops.”

In the bronze medal match, Michalovicova and Richter beat fourth seeds Tara Phillips and Kayla Reid 21-15, 21-15.

The next leg of the Australian Beach Volleyball Tour takes place at Wollongong in March.

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