Defending Pacific Games champions and women’s beach volleyball tournament favorites Vanuatu were knocked out of Sol2023 gold medal contention at SIFF Academy on Friday, losing 2-0 to Australia in the semi-final.
Australian pair Stefie Fejes and Jana Milnutinovic defeated the Samoa 2019 Pacific Games champions in straight sets, booking their place in Saturday’s beach volleyball gold medal match.
Captain Fejes told the Pacific Games News Service: “It feels amazing. It’s such an incredible feeling to be in the final. That was and still is our aim. That is what we came here to do. We are hoping to win gold tomorrow (Saturday) so we are going to go out there and play our best – give it our all and hopefully that’s what we will get.”
Australia, who are ranked fourth in the world, will take on hosts Solomon Islands in Saturday’s women’s gold medal match after the latter also secured victory in their semi-final clash against Fiji in straight sets.
Meanwhile, Australia’s men’s team of Ben Wood and D’Artagnan Potts also secured their spot in the gold medal match after beating Northern Mariana Islands 2-0.
The biggest upset of the day saw Tuvalu impressively seeing off hosts Solomon Islands in straight sets before a jampacked home crowd.
The win sets Tuvalu on course to challenge Australia in Saturday’s men’s gold medal match.
“It was not easy because we were playing in front of their home crowd. Despite this we were prepared for this match and executed our game plan perfectly – thus resulting in today’s victory,” Tuvalu coach Federica Tonon told the Pacific Games News Service.
Asked what it took to earn victory against Solomon Islands on home soil he replied: “Firstly I had to know my athletes are able to do what we can do to assess our opponents. I studied their strategies based also on the win. So yes, we played well, stuck to our game plan and came up with the win.”
In Friday evening’s bronze medal matches, Northern Mariana Islands defeated Solomon Islands in straight sets to secure bronze in the men’s competition, while Vanuatu beat Fiji in straight sets to collect bronze in the women’s.
Beach volleyball finals start at 9am on Saturday with the women’s followed by the men’s. Entry is $30.
By Shoreyann Ragoso and Timothy Inifiri Jnr, Pacific Games News Service