The first in a long time for Australian men’s beach volleyball with two teams travelling to Holland to take on the world's best beach volleyball stars at The Hague, the first FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour event of 2018.
It's been a while since Australia has had the depth to enter two mens teams in a grand slam event, and so this was always about gaining invaluable experience in foreign conditions against tough competition. Winning would have been a bonus but unfortunately that was denied.
Australia’s top men pairing and tenth seeds for this tournament Damien Schumann and Chris McHugh are shattered they failed to progress past the pool stage, they expected much more of themselves but playing on an indoor court proved a tough obstacle to overcome with their European opponents appearing to have a major advantage.
“It’s indoor volleyball, something the European teams experience all the time. They train on indoor courts, the play on indoor courts, we do not. It’s
a totally different game, more like indoor volleyball than beach volleyball."said Volleyball Australia Technical director Victor Anfiloff.
"The controlled environment is completely different to outdoor where you have wind and heat and many other variables. All of which requires different skills and experience. It really is a totally different game.” said Anfiloff.
While not wanting to seem like they are offering excuses the Aussies knew they’d be up against it going into the tournament facing the best of the best in unfamiliar conditions, but admit they expected to perform better.
“Yes it wasn’t good, the result is certainly not what we were after but our men’s program is still building and we are happy with the growth and this experience is another big step forward.” said Anfiloff.
Schumann and McHugh ranked 19th in the world had a horror draw, first up facing home town favourites Varenhorts/Bouter of the Netherlands. Despite a closely fought first set, that could have gone either way, the locals got it done 21-19. The home court advantage then really kicked in for the second with the home crowd getting the boys from Holland home comfortably 21-14.
It didn’t get any easier for the Aussies next up in a must win game they faced Perusic/Schweiner of the Czech Republic and were rattled in the first set losing it 14-21. The Aussies fought back in the second set as they always do but it was too little too late going down 19-21 and so their tournament was over.
It was now up to the second mens team of Zachery Schubert and Cole Durant to fly the Aussie flag first up against a Beach Volleyball world super power in Poland. The Aussies went out and attacked with all they had to make a real a contest of the first set eventually going down 19-21. The second set they fell away badly for a 10-21 loss.
“That Polish team were a multiple world tour medal team. We came out with some fire we really took it up to them in that first set, we kept going after our game but we fell away in that second set. We came here to really go after our game, to play our way and play our best volleyball . We certainly left it all out there on the court and it just didn’t come off but thats the world tour for you, you win some you lose some, there’s always tomorrow.” said Schubert.
Tomorrow did come and again Schubert/Durant came out all guns blazing to win the first set 21-19 against the highly rated Slovenia team. The Europeans showed their knowledge of the indoor conditions to fight back winning the next two sets 21-19, 15-10. Only 5 points separated the two teams over the three sets and while losing hurts the experience gained will help continue their exciting growth and development.
The Aussie men all head home now to their training base in Adelaide in preparation for the South Australian Open which doubles as an important Commonwealth Games selection event and the beginning of a big year for Australian Beach Volleyball.