Australia’s top underage athletes have proven their steel with Queensland and WA’s Northshore Volleyball Academy younger athletes stepping up at the first finals of Optus Volley by the Bay 2019.
The combined Australian U21 and U23 Beach Volleyball Championships have wowed Australia’s south west community with some roaring finals in windy conditions.
Following a weekend of big games, it came down to an all Queensland competition in the Australian U23 Gold medal match with Annelise Jones and Alisha Stevens up against 16 year olds Kayla and Brianna Mears.
Both teams looked nervous in the opening set with several service errors levelling the playing field. Jones and Stevens challenged the Mears twins early and forced the younger duo to resettle themselves quickly. Finding an edge, Kayla and Brianna secured the first set 21,17.
Early in the second set it was clear the Mears twins had found their groove after the unsteady first set. Some quick aces from Kayla caught Jones and Stevens off guard and saw the Mears storm away with the win 21,10.
“We stepped up in the second set, the first set was tight but we backed each other. We are pretty relaxed and after the first set we just tried to focus and side out as much as possible. I think [Kayla’s] serving was really good and helped us get the win in the second set.” Brianna said.
Reflecting on the win, the modest duo were happy to step up from the silver medal they won last year in the same competition.
In control all weekend, the Mears twins executed matches with technical proficiency more often seen at an international level. While they were pushed by some WA teams in the play off games, the Mears twin didn’t drop a set for the entire competition.
“Gold in U23 was our goal and was a really good warm up for us. It allowed us to feel out the conditions, the atmosphere and play as best we can. It was a lot of fun.” Added Kayla.
In the Men’s U23 gold medal match it was WA young guns Ky Landers and Caleb Lampard up against fellow Northshore Volleyball Academy training partners Ryan Penno and Dylan Phillips. Going the full three sets, the men’s match did not disappoint.
A close first set saw Penno and Phillips get up over Landers and Lampard 21,19. However the young duo reset in the break and came out firing. Some big blocks by Lampard at the front saw them collect the second set 21,11.
“It was a bit of a slow start and it’s always a bit hard to keep your composure after dropping the first set. At the break we definitely hit the reset button and decided to focus more on our side of the net and drain out what’s happened.” Lampard said.
“The second set was a massive confidence booster. We started enjoying it and as a result we started playing our best volleyball.” Added Landers.
Admitting that the fire was stoked after dropping the first set, Landers and Lampard’s reset focused on fun more than anything else.
“We decided after the first set to move on and find the fun. It’s pretty much was happened and focus on our team and really playing for the love of it.” Landers said.
“The enjoyment stems from the challenge, you need to embrace the challenge and find the fun with it.” Lampard added.
Optus Volley by the Bay 2019 continues in Bunbury with 125 teams from around the country competing in the Australia Junior Beach Volleyball Championships from the 15th to 18th of April.