The 2013 Marathon Visual Media NZ Beach Volleyball Open came to a resounding finish when local boy Sam O'Dea and partner Brendon Heath came from a set down to beat the US pairing of Tri Bourne and Will Montgomery in a thrilling final set.
Tauranga-based O'Dea brought the bumper crowd to their feet, at the world class location on Mount Maunganui's Main Beach, when he smashed a winner down the line to take it to 14-13 in the final set and then he calmly served for the match and with the help of the dynamic Heath at the net, they stole the victory that both had wanted for so long.
The US pairing looked to be cruising to victory to repeat their win at last week's Hamilton Open - also against O'Dea and Heath in another pulsating final - when they took the first set 21-14 and there seemed little the Kiwis could do to stop Bourne's domination of the net.
But the second set told a different story as the crowd began to warm to their work and support O'Dea in particular. He and Heath led the second stanza until they were overtaken 16-15 but Heath showed why he is regarded as one of the world's best with some big plays to win the clutch points to take out the second set.
Even more remarkable was Heath's form as he was a late replacement to play with O'Dea after Kirk Pitman took a job overseas. Heath and his wife run a luxury bed and breakfast in Rarotonga so he had little time to acclimatise before last week's Hamilton Open.
"I am really happy with how I have played," Heath said. "I have been here about 10 days and we have been in two finals. We had a quick get up to speed drills session before the first tournament and kept it going. We are looking at playing some Asian tournaments together in April and we will see where we go from there."
Despite going down in that first set in the final, O'Dea says he never had any doubts they could do it.
"We played really well in the semi (against his brothers Edwin and Ben O'Dea) and you have to win two sets to win it. I knew we could come back and win it," O'Dea said.
"The hometown crowd made a difference for sure and they were awesome. For me and Brendon it is the first time to win the trophy so it is huge for us and also huge for the profile of the sport in New Zealand.
"It is really promising what we have done in these last two tournaments going ahead so for us Asia is the big focus now."
The women's final saw the world class German pairing of Julia Suder and Chantal Labourer take on three-time Olympian Tamsyn Hinchley from Australia and New Zealander Micah Lindsay-Brown in a repeat of the Hamilton Open final. As in that result, the Germans were too good, with Suder in superb form around the net and they won comfortably in straight sets 21-10, 21-17.
A highlight of the tournament was the form of two young Tauranga combinations in Beniece Douch and Holly Boyle, and Daryl Lewis and James Gilling, who acquitted themselves well in the event and gained invaluable pro tour experience.