Silver ends long World Tour drought for Australian women

Sydney, Australia, March 19, 2017 - Australia’s Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Jessyka Ngauamo finished just short of an emotional hometown gold medal at Manly Beach on Sunday, but their appearance in the final ended a long drought for Australian women’s volleyball.

You have to go back to the middle of 2009 for the last time Australia had a women’s team in the final of a World Tour event, when Louise Bawden and Becchara Palmer made the final in Stare Jablonki, Poland.

Bawden, who now plays under the name of Grice after her wedding one week ago, finished third on Sunday with 2016 Olympian, Nikki Laird.

Ngauamo and del Solar were regular partners as teenagers in 2013, and Ngauamo said it didn’t take them long to get back into the groove.

“We have a lot of fun off the court as well as on the court,” Ngauamo said.

“We can definitely take confidence from this tournament into next weekend’s Australian titles and into Asia, even though we will be playing with different partners again.”

Beach volleyball in Australia has been going through a transition phase since the Rio Olympics, with teams constantly changing as new combinations are trialled.

Bawden and Laird embrace following their 3rd placing.

But Laird admits it will be good to get back to having a regular partner.

“It will be beneficial obviously to be in the one team going forward,” she said.

“The challenges that have come at us in the past few months, I think for all of us, to play with new people and to learn new skills, but maintain your own level in new teams has been really beneficial.

“It will be good to lock something down and start to take steps forward on the World Tour, but I think that these last few months has been so necessary, and there’s been so much growth for everyone.”

Grice will be reunited next month with 2016 Olympic partner, Taliqua Clancy, who has been on the sidelines with an injury.

“I’m excited for the next phase,” she said.

“I think we’ve all gone through our maximum amount of development, and we’re really hungry to take our game out to Asia next month and bring home a few more titles.”

The Australians will contest the Australian Tour finals next weekend at Manly Beach.

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