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AUSTRALIA’S LAIRD AND DEL SOLAR SEAL BACK-TO-BACK GOLD MEDALS

Songkhla, Thailand, April 16, 2016 – Australia’s Nicole Laird and Mariafe Artacho del Solar have continued their dominant beach volleyball form in Thailand with a second consecutive Asian tour gold medal.

Laird and del Solar were unstoppable in the final of the Samila Open, beating local hopes Varapatsorn Radarong and Tanarattha Udomchavee 21-7, 21-13 in a one-sided encounter.

Less than one week ago the Adelaide-based pair won gold in the Pak Bara Open in Satun.

But there was to be no back-to-back gold medal for Australia’s top ranked men’s pairing pf Chris McHugh and Isaac Kapa, who had to settle for silver against Kazakhstan’s Alexey Sidorenko and Alexandr Dyachenko.

One week after beating the same team for gold at the Pak Bara Open, the Australians struggled to get into the final at Samila, losing 17-21, 14-21.

Australia’s other men’s pairing of Damien Schumann and Joshua Court lost the bronze medal playoff to China’s Li Zhuoxin and Li Jian, 21-16, 18-21, 6-15.

The win for Laird and del Solar is a further confidence boost after the pair lost the Asian Championship final to China at Manly Beach last month.

“I think for us, the loss in Manly was critical for the growth of the team,” Laird said.

“It took a lot of honest communication to move through the emotion of the loss and to take the learnings forward, but once we started making those steps we were able to put some actions in place.

“I think that every time we step on the court, past results become irrelevant and distracting, so for us we’re just looking to continuously build our game.”

Laird and del Solar, along with the Australian men’s teams, will be looking to earn Australia additional places at the Rio Olympics when they compete at the Asian Olympic qualifiers in Australia in June.

Australia’s top-ranked women’s team of Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy have already sealed their place at Copacabana Beach.

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Champions Al Arabi end Qatar League on a high

Doha, Qatar, April 16, 2016 – The Qatar Volleyball Association League came to a pulsating end as Al Arabi, which had sealed the crown for 25 times, scotched a bold bid by Police to end their winning run on Friday.

Al Arabi finally wrapped up the match 3-2 in one hour and 52 minutes (17-25 25-17 21-25 25-22 15-12), which was their 16th victory in a row and 19th overall. Their only loss of the League came against Al Ahli in the fourth match and since then, they had been unbeaten.

Dethroned Al Rayyan Club were also involved in a cliff-hanger against Al Ahli. Playing for pride, the eight-time winners took one hour and 57 minutes to pull off a 25-19 22-25 25-16 23-25 15-11 victory.

A dominant Al Arabi finished with 54 points from 19 wins in 20 matches. Al Rayyan grabbed the second place with a tally of 46 points from 15 wins and five losses. Police leapfrogged to third spot, collecting 45 points from 15 wins and five defeats. El Jaish were fourth. They also have 45 points but they had suffered six defeats in 20 matches. Al Ahli were fifth.

The top four will feature in the Qatar Cup, starting at the Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiyah Arena from April 22 to 28. This will be followed by the prestigious Emir’s Cup from April 30 to May 13.

At their home court, Al Arabi were caught off guard by charged up Police, the two-time runners-up. Exerting pressure through William Diaz, who collected a massive 34 points, Police clinched two of the opening three sets and raised hopes for an upset.

But Al Arabi raised the bar when it was needed the most. They rallied through Osmel Camejo, who got 23 points, Ibrahim Mohamed (22 points) and Jorge Gonzalez Garcia (16 points) and forced the tie-break set. Al Arabi pushed Police on the back-foot and opened a 9-6 lead in the decider.

Kennedy Chigbo won a few points to bring back Police close (8-10) with his attractive play from the middle court. Later, Diaz led a fightback to make it 11-13. But Al Arabi got the match point as Diaz netted his service. Setter Josef Borislav flicked a ball to save one match point. But in similar fashion, Al Arabi setter Seifeddine Elmajid diverted the ball to clinch the point, set and the contest.

Al Arabi head coach Maaouia Laznef was pleased with his team’s rally. “We’d already won the League and in such situations, it is generally difficult to keep up the motivation level. We did not start well but by God’s grace, we came back and imposed our game.

“This (25th title) is a huge effort by the club. We’re proud of what we achieved. The Cup competition, as I feel, would be quite hard but we’re ready. We’re going to add new professional and hope to keep up our good work,” added the head coach.

Veteran player Juma Faraj said about the title victory, which was his seventh, “We’re really happy to win tonight. We knew this game would not be easy. From the motivational aspect, it was a big test, especially after knowing that you’ve already claimed the title.

“Police made it hard for us, taking two sets in the beginning but as we were determined to end the League on a high, we went deep into our game and pulled it off. We’ve won 16 matches in a row and we don’t want to stop. We’ll carry the momentum into the Cups as well,” added Faraj.

Rayyan salvage pride

GCC champions Al Rayyan earlier salvaged some pride as they overcame Al Ahli Club’s challenge, with the match going down to the wire. They posted a 3-2 victory in one hour and 57 minutes.

Al Rayyan piled pressure on the rivals keeping the lead mainly through Russian Dmitriy Ilinykh, Mubarak Dahi Waleed and Cassiano De Toni. Al Ahli, the former three times runners-up, fought back with Kenyan star Philip Maiyo and Ibrahim Hindawi dominating the net with power-packed spikes. They won the second and fourth sets to force the decider.

Al Rayyan lifted their game a couple of notches in the tie-break set and from 5-5, they rose to 7-5, which helped them control the proceedings. At 10-9, Mubarak fired a smash on the sidelines. Suddenly, Al Rayyan reeled off three more points to set up the match-point with Al Ahli’s Idris Sharqi not being able to time his jump and a smash by them landing out.

Al Ahli had an uphill task of saving five match-points. They collected two but then Hindawi served out to lose the match. For Al Rayyan, Ilinykh gathered a match-high 28 points, including four aces. Mubarak Dahi Waleed and Cassiano De Toni added 17 and 12, respectively.

Maiyo led Al Ahli’s rally and produced some brilliant smashes. He got 23 points. Hindawi netted 21 and middle player Sharqi had 10.

Al Rayyan Head Coach Igor Arbutina commented, “We’re delighted to win the match and we hope to finish either second or third, depending on the last match between Al Arabi and Police. For us, it was really important to recover from the defeat and some injury problems against Al Arabi in the last match and achieve our aim of winning today.

“Al Ahli played a good game. We kept the heat on Al Ahli, though we also had the pressure of winning the match. In the end, we managed a 3-2 victory and it shows we’re serious till the end. We did our part and now, we’ve to see what happens in the last match.”

The Al Rayyan coach lauded Al Arabi for playing high-level and consistently. “Al Arabi played well and consistently throughout the season and deservingly claimed the League. So congratulations to them. Our last match, in which our main player (Ilinykh) was injured, was turning point for us. If we had won that match, today’s game would have been quite important.

“But we tried our best this season. Now we’ll focus on the Cups and hopefully, we’ll be reinforcing our team with another professional. All the teams would try to get stronger. The talks are on with players so we can’t tell more about it at the moment,” added Arbutina, who led Al Rayyan to the GCC title in Oman last month with a crucial victory over Al Arabi.

 

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