Weekend bigger than Texas

February 06, 2018

James Avery Drost looks for a winner during his gold medal-winning performance.

Chris McHugh hangs in the air ready to smash the ball with partner Damien Schumann.

Amanda Dowdy at full stretch during the quarter-finals.

Irene Pollock digs one out for partner Amanda Dowdy on their way to the world tour title.

Japan's Chiyo Suzuki goes for a drop shot alongside partner Reika Murakami in the quarter-final stage of the tournament.

For a second straight year Shepparton’s Federation Internationale de Volleyball World Tour event has gone off without a hitch.

The weekend belonged to the US; Californian pair Chase Frishman and James Avery Drost knocked off reigning men’s champions Chris McHugh and Damien Schumann in straight sets, while Texans Amanda Dowdy and Irene Pollock proved too strong for Jace Pardon and Caitlin Ledoux in an all-American women’s final.

But it was another seamless, high-quality tournament according to Volleyball Australia’s media director Steve Hart.

‘‘I thought it was a fantastic weekend; the weather was sensational and the locals really turned up and got along to the venue,’’ he said.

‘‘In terms of an event, it was first class.’’

World number 20 men’s pair McHugh and Schumann seemed destined to make it back-to-back Shepparton titles before the American qualifiers stunned them 21-17, 21-15 in the final.

But emerging Aussie duo Cole Durant and Zachery Schubert left the tournament thrilled with a third-place finish.

‘‘The players will tell you any time you can win a medal you shouldn’t be disappointed,’’ Hart said.

‘‘Obviously (McHugh and Schumann) would prefer to be on top and they’re disappointed they weren’t able to defend their championship.

‘‘The bronze medal winners were absolutely over the moon though; they came into the week believing they could win, but they were thrilled with the dominating performance in the bronze medal game.’’

Hart pointed out strong performances from a variety of nations as a highlight of the weekend.

New Zealand’s Shaunna Marie Polley and Kelsie Wills made the women’s semi-finals, while Vanuatu’s Miller Pata and Linline Matauatu were knocked out in the quarters.

‘‘The Americans really came and spoiled the party — but that’s what we want, good contests like that with ideally the Australians winning,’’ Hart said.

‘‘But the international depth on show was great, and we were really excited to see the emerging Oceania nations like Vanuatu, Fiji and New Zealand performing well.’’

And will the world tour be back in Shepparton in 2019?

‘‘We’d love to come back if the Shepparton council wants us,’’ Hart said.

‘‘But certainly if the support is there we would love it; it’s a perfect venue, the town has opened its arms to us and the hospitality and weather have been amazing.’’

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