Tauranga's elite pro beach volleyballers have a good chance of gaining selection for next year's Rio Olympic games after the latest series of Asian qualifying held in Rarotonga.
New Zealand number one team of Sam O'Dea and Mike Watson, and number two Ben O'Dea and Jason Lochhead, can still make it to Rio with everything on the line at the last round of qualifying in Australia in June next year. There the top qualifiers will get an Olympic berth.
All four players are products of the Otumoetai College beach volleyball pathway.
Rarotonga was the second phase of the Olympic qualification process. The format for the competition is similar to the Davis Cup with two teams from each country playing each other, with two wins progressing the team in the tournament. If there is a tie then a golden match is played to decide the winner.
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The New Zealanders' first match was against American Samoa, with consistent play resulting in a comfortable win. They then took on the super confident Australians in the final. Watson and Sam O'Dea beat Australia in straight sets but Ben O'Dea and Lochhead lost a massive battle to Australia in the third set 21-23.
Two players were then selected to play the golden set with Watson and Sam O'Dea chosen for New Zealand and Australia 2 selected after their strong match against New Zealand 2. The golden match was again highly competitive and went to the defining third set, which the Kiwis controlled 15-9 to take the match.
"We lost to Australia in the finals of the same tournament four years ago so it's great for the New Zealand team to get on top this time," Sam said.
"It's a great confidence booster for us going into the last round undefeated," Watson added.
Sam O'Dea picked up an injury and will be replaced by Rene Kapa as the teams now compete in the Oceania Beach Volleyball Championships in Tahiti later this month.