The opening day of women’s volleyball at the Sol2023 Pacific Games saw wins for Papua New Guinea (PNG), Tahiti and Samoa at a packed Friendship Hall on Saturday.
First up, Tahiti beat Samoa 2019 Pacific Games silver medallists American Samoa 3-1. American Samoa’s Pauline Von Dinklaga-Mapu, who is representing her country for the first time, said: “I want to thank my parents who aren’t here and are babysitting my four kids in American Samoa.
“Minimal error mistakes on the courts, but overall, my team can do better. We’re going to work on talking more. Trusting each other when serving but, other than that, we’re going to be ready, I believe in my team.”
In the afternoon’s next clash, PNG and Solomon Islands played out a thrilling five-set match with PNG edging home 3-2. PNG won the first two sets 25-18, 25-12 before Solomon Islands reversed things to win the next two 25-18, 25-19. PNG held out 15-12 in the fifth set.
PNG coach Ula Gima said: “A win is a win. It could have been better, but that’s how it goes sometimes. We just have to be consistent with how we set up our game plan. Probably the girls underestimated the opponent a bit; when they gave an inch, they took a metre, and we knew we had it covered.”
PNG captain Lois Garena said: “I feel relieved. The girls from Solo gave us a great game with their home crowd advantage. I am so proud of my girls and the coaching staff for believing in the last set to finish it.
“Thank you to the home team for bringing out the best in us. We come here small in numbers but we play for 8 million people back home, and they were with us throughout the game.”
In Saturday’s other women’s match, Samoa beat Tuvalu 3-0.
In the men’s competition, defending champions Tahiti beat Tuvalu in straight sets, Tonga defeated Kiribati 3-0, Samoa eased past Solomon Islands 3-0 and Fiji beat American Samoa 3-1.
Fiji, who won bronze at Samoa 2019, were relieved to bounce back on day two after their opening day loss to Tahiti.
Fiji’s Atonio Talemaimaleya said: “We were expecting a tough game with American Samoa, but they gave away. We are looking forward to the next match, and we view every match as a final”.
Volleyball continues on Monday at Friendship Hall.
By Walter Sale and Delisha Koime, Pacific Games News Service