Shepparton, Australia, January 30, 2018 – The FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour is coming back to Shepparton after its first stop in this south-eastern Australian city was held less than a year ago, in March 2017. The one-star double-gender tournament, scheduled to take place at a purpose-built beach volleyball stadium in Victoria Park from February 1 through 4, is the second event in Australia on the 2018 edition of the World Tour after the two-star Sydney tournament in late November.
A total of 50 teams (26 men’s and 24 women’s pairs) from 17 different countries have registered to take part in the Shepparton event. In each gender, a 16-team main draw will feature a modified pool play system with the top three teams in each four-team pool progressing into single elimination. With 12 duos seeded directly into the main draw, the remaining four spots will be contested in qualifications to be played on Thursday, February 1.
The tournament in Shepparton will also serve as a testing ground for a new block touch rule, which mandates the block contact with the ball not to be counted as a team hit, thus allowing for three more touches before the ball is returned.
Three Australian pairs are leading the preliminary seeding on entry points for the men’s main draw. Christopher McHugh and Damien Schumann, who won gold at the 2017 Shepparton stop, top the line-up. This was their only medal on the Tour as a team. McHugh had won bronze at the Klagenfurt Grand Slam in 2014, with a different partner, Isaac Kapa. McHugh and Schumann reached the final four at the Sydney stop in November, but missed out on the opportunity to climb the podium.
The other finalists from the previous event in Shepparton, Cole Durant and Zachery Schubert, come next in the ranking order. For these Australians too, that medal was the only one they ever won on the World Tour. They finished fifth at the previous stop on home sand in Sydney.
Also coming in with a fifth-place finish from Manly Beach, Paul Burnett and Joshua Court complete the all-Australian trio on top of the preliminary seeding. This was the maiden World Tour participation for Burnett, who turned 20 earlier this month, and the best result for either member of the pair.
One more duo from Australia, two from Thailand and one each from Canada, Fiji, Germany, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Sweden complete the list of 12 teams seeded directly into the men’s main draw.
Vanuatu’s Miller Pata and Linline Matauatu top the list on the women’s side. While the fourth place at the 2016 Fortaleza Open is their best finish on the World Tour so far, Pata and Matauatu as a team also take pride in their gold medal from the FIVB Pattaya Challenger in 2014. These players from the tiny Pacific nation will reunite in Shepparton after Pata skipped the entire 2017 season, while Matauatu made five appearances on the World Tour with a different partner, Loti Joe.
Shaunna Marie Polley and Kelsie Wills from New Zealand come in second on the women’s preliminary seeding. They celebrated their first and only World Tour medal in July of last year when they took bronze at the Ulsan one-star event. For Polley, this will be the second time in Shepparton after her ninth-place finish in 2017, alongside Melissa Ruru.
The host country is also represented in the women’s top three. Both Phoebe Bell and Jessyka Ngauamo have previously medalled at World Tour stops in Australia, but never together as a team. In fact, this will be the pair’s debut on the Tour. Ngauamo won silver from the March 2017 event in Sydney, together with Mariafe Artacho del Solar, while Bell claimed the bronze at Shepparton 2017 in partnership with Nicole Laird.
Three more teams from Australia and one more from New Zealand are also seeded directly into the women’s main draw. The list of 12 pairs is completed with two duos from USA and one each from Fiji, Italy and Japan.
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