London Olympians Freedom Chiya and Grant Goldschmidt claimed the fourth leg of the Eon Consulting national championship beach volleyball series in Durban at the weekend.
The Cape Town based duo beat fellow Capetonians Jerome Fredericks and Leo Williams in the final to take the R8000 winners’ pay cheque.
The final score was 21-14 21-17.
Donovan Nair reports that power attacking and well executed blocking coupled with great ball recovery in the back court were the hall marks of the opening. The crowd sat glued to their seats as the giants in South African beach volleyball fraternity locked horns in what promised to unfold into a titanic struggle for the top honours.
The players didn’t disappoint the fans as they continually sought ways of choosing a variety of attacking options to put quick points on the board. Well executed blocking by both teams displayed their strength in defence. The crowd showed their appreciation by applauding loudly every time there a solid block that ‘shot’ the ball back to the attacker’s feet.
With Chiya playing like a man possessed in the back court, Fredericks and Williams had very little chance of taking a commanding lead. Williams’ strength as a blocker yielded a few much needed points. On the odd occasion when Chiya was brought into attack he was merciless in the┬á punishment he meted out.
In a do or die final set, top-seeded Fredericks and Williams refused to accept the fact that they may suffer the same fate as they did in the third leg of the championship in Durban in July.
Their determination to take the set by the scruff of its neck made the contest a highly explosive encounter.┬á At 6-6 it seemed as if the set could tip in anyone’s favour. While Chiya weighed in with a few hard driven attacks, Goldschmidt put in a five-star performance as an all out attacker and a blocker of note to stretch their lead to 12-8
In response to Chiya and Goldschmidt’s power play, Williams and Fredericks fought courageously to reduce the deficit to 12-11.
The left-handed Goldschmidt became a handful for his opponents as he mixed power attacks with clinically placed ‘cut-shots’ that always caught his opponents off-guard. Not to be out done Fredericks and Williams played off their opponents blockers’ hands to close the points gap to 19-16. A ‘dink’ by Goldschmidt pushed the score to 20-16. Frederick’s hard driven ball off Goldschmidt’s hands brought the score to 20-17.
Chiya put the set and match beyond his opponents’ reach with a scorching attack to record a 21-17 set win to reach the podium as gold medallists.
The women’s title went to Palesa Sekhonyana and Randy Williams who beat defending champions Kirsten Pocock and Judith Augostides 21-19 24-23.
A shaky start by Pocock and Augostides saw the challengers taking a quick fire 10-5 lead.
With Sekhonyana taking care of matters at the net, back court work was left in the capable hands of the athletic Williams who did not disappoint as she chased every ball that came off Sekhonyana’s outstretched hands.
While both teams were not afraid to unleash attack after attack that brought on loud applause from the crowd, it was the occasional deft touches into unguarded parts of the court that had the crowd holding their breath. There was a huge sigh of relief when their favourite players┬á stretched to the limit to recover the ‘dink’ to save a point.
Efforts by Augostides and Pocock to take the sting out of Sekhonyana’s attack paid off from time to time as the challengers tried alternate ways of over coming their opponents’ huge blocking action at the net. Consecutive blocking by Augostides on Sekhonyana cut their opponents’ 20-16 lead to a two points difference (20-18). A well placed ‘dink’ by Augostides that caught Sekhonyana and Williams napping narrowed the gap to 20-19.
Putting their fears to bed, Sekhoyana and Williams stepped up a gear to sneak in with morale boosting 21-19 first set win.
Undeterred by their first set loss Augostides and Pocock stuck to their game plan and began to play a more dominant role at the net. Soon they were rewarded with a hard fought 12-10 lead which they patiently began to build on. With both teams trading blows at the net and mixing them with a fair number of┬á ‘dinks’ into open spaces on the court increased the tempo of the game as the players went out of their way to keep the ball alive on their side of the court.
With the local fans firmly behind their favourite teams, the players threw caution to the wind and went on a ‘blitzkrieg’ attacking strategy that excited the fans. With long drawn out rallies the score board seemingly came to a halt at 21-21.
When Augostides and Pocock pushed the score to 22-21, in sheer desperation Sekhonyana latched onto Williams’ quick set to the antenna to hammer an attack down the centre of the court to level matters 22-22.
With local fans urging on Sekhonyana and Williams to close proceedings, it pepped them up and brought out the best in them.
A great pick-up by Williams off┬á Sekhonyana’s block was clinically powered once again by the latter down the middle of the court that befuddled her opponents. Sekhonyana and Williams stepped closer to a straight sets victory when the score board nervously ticked to┬á 23-22 in their favour. Quickly connecting with Augostides well executed set Pocock chose to blast her way past Seckhonyan’s huge blocking action at the net to level the scores at 23-23. Sadly though Kirsten’s attack flew out of bounds, handing Palesa and Randy a straight victory and the R8┬á000 winners’ cheque.
The fifth and final leg of the R60┬á000 national Championship takes place at Durban’s New Beach from 6-8 December and that’s followed by the FIVB World Series Beach Volleyball Event ÔÇô the ÔÇ£FIVB Durban Open ÔÇô at the same venue from 11-15 December.