McHUGH AND BURNETT TO PLAY FOR BRONZE AT THE BEACH PRO TOUR TORQUAY CHALLENGE
Commonwealth Games Champions Chris McHugh and Paul Burnett will play for bronze in Torquay on Sunday, facing the Portuguese team of Joao Pedrosa and Hugo Campos as the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Torquay Challenge reaches its finals stage.
The men’s gold medal final will be an all-Italian affair, with Alex Ranghieri and Adrian Carambula playing against compatriots Daniele Lupo and Enrico Rossi.
The women’s finals will feature a USA v CHN doubleheader, as American top seeds Sara Hughes and Kelly Cheng play Lvwen Yuan and Jie Dong for gold, while Emily Stockman and Megan Kraft face Xinyi Xia and MeiMei Lin for bronze.
McHugh and Burnett took Lupo and Ranghieri to three sets in a tense semifinal that saw the Italians take the opener 21-18. The Australians adjusted their game and dominated the first part of the second set, holding on to their lead to level the match at one set apiece, 21-17. The Aussies also had a great start of the third set, before momentum swung in favour of the Italians, who closed out the match 15-13 in a tense finale.
“It’s a bit disappointing to come so close, but not away with the win,” Burnett said. “Italy played really well, credit to them and all the best for the final. We still have a job to do if we want to come away with a medal, so we will reset and hopefully come and get the bronze tomorrow.
“The crowd was unbelievable. It’s always amazing to play on home soil and you don’t get the opportunity very often.”
“It was a tough game,” echoed McHugh. “Paul played really well tonight, but congratulations to Italy, they’re a great team and I am sure it’s going to be a great final tomorrow.”
In the other men’s semifinal, Carambula and Ranghieri defeated Campos and Pedrosa in straight sets 27-25, 21-13 to advance to the gold medal match.
Earlier on Saturday, the journey of the other two Australian men’s teams still in the tournament ended at the quarter finals stage, with both claiming a fifth place finish.
Before defeating McHugh and Burnett, the Italian team of Lupo and Rossi had already stopped the run of another Aussie team, beating Thomas Hodges and Zachery Schubert in straight sets (21-15, 21-14).
“It’s been an amazing year, we can’t be disappointed,” Schubert commented after the match. “This is our third fifth place at a Challenge event this year and we were really hoping to get into the semifinals, but we’ll have another shot at a Challenge level next year.
“We’ve played some excellent volleyball out there, but so have they, for parts. We still have next week to perform with the Elite 16 and we’re looking forward to it,” he said.
In another men’s quarter final, Pedrosa and Campos defeated Aussies Izac Carracher and Mark Nicolaidis in a close three-set match. Coming all the way from the qualification round, the Portuguese team took the first set 21-18 before conceding the second 17-21. In a close decider, the Portuguese pair eventually pulled away to secure their semifinal spot 15-12.
Carracher, who battled through an ankle injury sustained in the duo’s opening pool match on Wednesday, said he and Nicolaidis were looking forward to getting back on centre court to play in the Elite 16 event next week.
“We’re just so happy to have events back in Australia and we’ve been so excited for this tournament all year,” Carracher said. “We were really stoked to have the opportunity to play for a spot in the semifinals against a talented Portuguese team. We didn’t make the most of our opportunities today, but all credit to them.”
“We did give it a crack and it wasn’t enough today,” added Nicolaidis. “But all credit to Izac as he pushed through some adversity over the last few games and I don’t think many people could do what he did. Standing next to him for the last few games has been incredible,” he said.
The reunited American duo of Sara Hughes and Kelly Cheng have looked strong throughout the tournament, also ending young Australians Georgia Johnson and Jasmine Fleming’s run in the Challenge event at the quarter finals stage.
Despite a valiant effort, Johnson and Fleming could not match their opponents’ talent and experience, losing in straight sets 10-21,10-21. The Americans, who played together until 2018, are competing in their first international tournament after reuniting their partnership.
“We knew we were up for a tough one and we had to work hard for every point,” said Johnson after the match. “But it’s always a great experience, especially playing at home in front of our home crowd, against one of the best teams in the world.
“It’s good to see [Sarah and Kelly] reunited on the tour. Our goal [for this event] was to get a quarter final finish, so we can be happy with our tournament as a whole.”
“It was also our first tournament back together and we worked really hard over the past couple of months, so it’s nice to see how that hard work paid off, physically and mentally,” echoed Fleming. “We’ve got a long way to go but we’re excited for the future.”
The programme of the Beach Pro Tour Torquay Challenge Finals starts tomorrow, Sunday 27 November at 12pm with the Women’s bronze medal match, followed by the Women’s gold medal final. Men take to the court at 5pm with the bronze medal match, while the Men’s gold medal match starts at 6pm.
All Finals matches will be streamed live exclusively on Kayo Freebies (kayosports.com.au/freebies).
For the full results, head over to the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour website.