McHUGH AND BURNETT CLAIM BRONZE AS ITALY GOES 1-2 AT TORQUAY CHALLENGE
Chris McHugh and Paul Burnett finished third in the Beach Pro Tour Challenge event in Torquay on Sunday, as Daniele Lupo and Enrico Rossi claimed the gold medal after a tense final against fellow Italians Alex Ranghieri and Adrian Carambula.
Going against the Portuguese duo of Joao Pedrosa and Hugo Campos, McHugh and Burnett put pressure on their opponents right from the start, forcing them to take an early timeout on 7-3 in the first set. The Aussies held on to their lead for most of the set, taking advantage of their second set point to close out 21-18.
The second set followed a similar script, with Australia jumping out to an early lead and Portugal chasing. Despite putting up a fierce resistance, the Portuguese team could not match the quality of top seed McHugh and Burnett, who closed the match 21-15, their first two-set game in the entire tournament.
“It was a really good performance for most of the day,” said McHugh. “Portugal came to play. We got out to an early lead and they came back, but Paul’s serve was clutch at the end and put a lot of pressure on them.
“To come away with the bronze medal at your home event is really special and I am sure we’ll look back at this season really fondly in the future,” he said.
“We’re super happy right now,” added Burnett. “It was a tough game, Portugal is a great team and had a great tournament.
“There’s always a lot of nerves in a medal match, especially for bronze, when it’s medal or no medal, so to be able to stay composed and have that run at the end and come out with the win makes us really happy. Chris played well today and showed a lot of leadership,” he said.
The two Aussies will take a couple of days off before starting again on Wednesday, when the pool stage of the Torquay Elite 16 is scheduled to commence.
“We’re super excited to keep building on our momentum,” McHugh continued.
“We played a lot of volleyball this week, so we’re looking forward to next week and stepping back out on centre court with the Aussie crowd behind us.”
As they took the opportunity to recognise the support of the public that encouraged them all week in Torquay, McHugh and Burnett also highlighted the importance of bringing top-level international events to Australia, to inspire the next generation of volleyball players.
“It’s something that I didn’t get to see when I was growing up, so I didn’t get into the sport until a lot later,” said Burnett. “So for all these kids of seven or eight to be here and see this stuff and get inspired is awesome. It just bodes really well for the future of Australian beach volleyball.”
“When you look at the venue here this weekend, it is phenomenal,” added McHugh. “We just hope that the event will keep growing from strength to strength and hopefully we can attract the world’s best here every year.”
“We love playing at home and playing in front of a great crowd and it’s really a way of developing the sport,” he concluded.
The Gold medal match was an all-Italian showdown with Daniele Lupo and Enrico Rossi taking on Alex Ranghieri and Adrian Carambula. An inspired performance by Rossi led him and his teammate to an exciting 2-0 victory (21-17, 21-18).
“We played better and better every day [this week],” said Lupo after the game. “This was a very difficult match because it was like a ‘derby’, Italy against Italy, but Enrico was wonderful today and I need to thank him for this amazing victory.”
“Our opponents are a very strong team and we know each other because we train together. So it was very difficult, but in the end we found a way to win so we’re very happy,” added Rossi.
The Great Ocean Road Beach Volleyfest comes back on Tuesday with the start of the Elite 16 tournament. The qualification round will advance four teams to the pool stages which are scheduled to commence on Wednesday 30 November.
All Torquay Elite 16 matches played on centre court will be streamed live and free exclusively on Kayo Freebies (kayosports.com.au/freebies).
For the full results of the Torquay Challenge event, head over to the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour website.