Beach volleyball: Tauranga duo out to keep title

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WORLD CLASS: Local champions Mike Watson (left) and Sam O'Dea expect to be pushed hard at Mount Main Beach this weekend. PHOTO/FILE
WORLD CLASS: Local champions Mike Watson (left) and Sam O'Dea expect to be pushed hard at Mount Main Beach this weekend. PHOTO/FILE

The New Zealand National Beach Volleyball Tour ramps up with the Bay of Plenty Times Mt Maunganui Open to be held at Mount Main Beach today and tomorrow.

The event is set to grow on the already strong support it enjoys at what is commonly referred to as the home of beach volleyball in New Zealand.

Men's defending champions Sam O'Dea and Mike Watson grew up in Tauranga and will not want to lose their title on their home beach. International travellers from Germany, Vanuatu and Japan will be competing.

Patrick Gruhn and Max Levermann from Germany say they love the atmosphere and welcoming environment.

"I love the attitude that the Kiwi players bring to the sport," Gruhn said.

The Tour will then move up the country to the beautiful shores of Lake Karapiro, finishing in Mairangi Bay, north of Auckland.

New Zealand's top female team Shaunna Polley and Julia Tilley have represented New Zealand internationally for many years and say they are looking forward to competing at such a high level in their own country.

"Japan will really push us in these first few tournaments, they are aiming for the Olympics so its a good bench mark for us," said Tilley.

Once the Open event finishes, the Pro Tour will start, moving from Hutt City to Mount Maunganui with the grand finale in Auckland. Teams from Netherlands, Canada and Australia are also joining the tour to do battle with the New Zealand teams who were able to emerge from the open events.

Play gets under way at 9am daily with finals set to go after 5pm on Sunday.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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