Peter is a sports writer at the Bay of Plenty Times

Meet the beach volleyball stars taking on the world

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Tauranga beach volleyballers Daniel Kilpatrick and Emily Johnston are back home in Tauranga after top ten finishes at the Under-19 World Championships held in Larnaka, Cyprus.

The two 17-year-olds, who share the same birthday, teamed up with partners from other parts of the country to both finish in ninth place - just the second time New Zealand teams had finished so high up the standings.

Dealing with the massive temperature change was a huge challenge for them, with Cyprus hitting 35 degrees during the tournament.

Tauranga Boys' College Year 13 student Kilpatrick teamed up with Greg Vukets from Westlake Boys' in Cyprus.

"We were very happy to finish ninth equal," Kilpatrick said.

"We beat the US pair and then had a super close round 16 match against Mexico, where we lost 27-25, 21-15 which would have taken us through to the quarter final against Brazil who went on to win."

He and Vukets had to alternate training between Auckland and Tauranga to prepare for Cyprus.

"We would train all day Saturday and for a couple of hours on Sunday, along with our coach Darrell Boyd (from Tauranga Boys' College) when he could."

To get to the world champs Kilpatrick and Vukets had to finish top five at the Asian Under-19 Championships held in Laos.

"It was a good indication to see how good we were and if we had the opportunity to do well at the world champs. It adjusted us to heat and what the big stage was like and to play some good teams."

For Bethlehem College Year 13 student Johnston, the potential difficulty of training with her Christchurch-based partner Alice Zeimann from Burnside High School was alleviated when Zeimann moved to Tauranga.

Johnston said they performed above expectations.

"We were pretty stoked with ninth and one other (New Zealand) teams has achieved the same result," she said.

"We didn't want to go in with too many expectations but just play freely in every game and try and do our best.

"But we are happy to go over there and actually compete with the other top athletes and put New Zealand a little further up there on the table.

"Beating Aussie was a real big highlight for us as that was a really big game to win and we won it quite convincingly."

Johnston, who has represented Bay of Plenty in netball and basketball, hopes to gain a beach volleyball scholarship to America next year.

"I am currently talking to a couple of colleges, one in Houston and one in Louisiana. So the world champs' ninth placing helped quite a lot with that which has been good."

Kilpatrick first got into beach volleyball as a student at Omokoroa No. 1 School.

He has represented New Zealand for three years at indoor volleyball and is unsure whether he will pursue a US college indoor volleyball scholarship or study engineering at Auckland University.

"I might stay here and train and try and compete for Commonwealth Games in 2018 and maybe the Olympics later on," he said.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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