Another week, another tough competition.
Like it or not, the teams Vanuatu Beach Volleyball have come up against over the past two weeks in Asia are some of the region’s best and among the ones we will have to contend with in any attempt to qualify for the Olympics this year.
While Cambodia could be seen as shaking off the Christmas cobwebs for both teams, Thailand was anticipated to bring a more accurate reckoning of the the squad’s standing overall and where the players are at early in the new season.
To their credit both teams, for different reasons, played hard and performed creditably up against very strong regional opposition.
In what is a somewhat eerie coincidence, the final rankings in both tournaments were the same for both teams with Miller Pata and Sherysyn Toko finishing 9th and Loti Joe with Bella Lawac finishing 19th respectively in Siem Reap and Udonthani.
Coach Michel Bargmann, while a little frustrated, could see the positives from the performances of his players.
“Both teams improved a lot in their technical skills, although struggled mentally at times,” he said.
“For the first tournaments of the season, it was a great experience for Bella and for Loti who is returning to the competition circuit.”
“And for Miller and Tini, two Top 10 results at a World Tour and Asian Championship is good, but we know what we have to work on.”
This week the Pata and Joe will return home to Port Vila for a break with families before both heading to New Zealand to compete in the all-important Continental Cup Olympic Qualifier Phase 1 – Oceania in early March.
Sherysyn, Bella and the coach will stop in Sydney to compete in the Australian National Tour events happening this weekend.
They will be joined there on Wednesday by VVF President (and occasional Team Manager) Debbie Masauvakalo and two more players, Commonwealth Games Bronze medallist Linline Matauatu and 16 year-old development player Chantale Willie.
The NSW Womens Beach Volleyball Open and the Australian U21 Beach Volleyball Championships will take place at Manly Beach this weekend, despite the much publicised effects of the recent king tides and sea surges which have affected the NSW coastline.
Toko will partner with Matauatu in the Open – seeded 6 out of 28 participating teams – while the Team Vanuatu ‘Young Guns’ will participate in the U21 tournament. Both teams will then compete in the Australian Championships the following weekend (28 Feb – 1 March).
Masauvakalo, while looking forward to getting back on the road with Team Vanuatu, views the last fortnight as a good building block to kick off a busy 2020.
“In playing some of the best teams we got really good experience,” she said.
“We know what we need to do to win next time – you need to play the best to be the best!”