Australian women on track for gold after scare
AUSTRALIA'S women's beach volleyballers survived a major scare against underdogs Vanuatu to claim victory in their semi-final and join the Aussie men's team in their respective gold medal matches today.
The first ever golds in beach volleyball will be decided by Australia-Canada duels in both the men's and the women's events after the two Aussie teams overcame tough games to book a ticket in the big dance at Coolangatta.
Hours after Aussie men Chris McHugh and Damien Schumann downed England in a tense semi-final, the in-form women's pair of Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy were expected to make much lighter work of the amateur Vanuatu team.
But Vanuatu didn't read that script and they took Australia to a third set for the first time in the Commonwealth Games.
The Aussies won the first set 21-19 but led by Miller Pata, who had to find accommodation outside the athletes village because she just had a baby, Vanuatu refused to give up and claimed the second set 21-16 with consistently clever play.
Australia took a while to compose themselves and adapt but Artacho del Solar starred with a handful of key involvements in the third set and they secured a pulse-racing victory.
They'll meet the world No.1 Canadian pair Canada's pair Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes in the final and after a hitherto cruisy tournament, Australia will at least be battle-hardened, now.
"It was good. Vanuatu is a good team but we have more to give," Clancy said.
"We had to bring our best. I'm proud of Mariafe, she gave us an extra lift in the third set."
"We know our best can beat anyone. Canada are a very experienced team, we're a new team, and we want to get to where they are.
"We're in Australia, you're never going to silence the crowd.
"Australia loves an underdog."
The Australian men's team had it a little easier, winning 21-13, 21-16 in two sets. But it wasn't anything but one-way traffic for McHugh and Schumann.
The 210cm frame of Englishman Chris Gregory proved a giant obstacle at the net but the Australian duo were able to keep their composure during tense periods and finish off the English.
"We played pretty strong," McHugh said.
"We haven't always been on this tournament but the crowd certainly got us up and Schumann couldn't have played better."
McHugh's power-hitting saw him crack out a dozen clean winners but his presence at the net was crucial, too, with four blocks and several forced errors by England.
Schumann was characteristically everywhere, and his clever setting helped bypass the blocking threats of Gregory.
"It was great to move him around a bit after he got a few blocks on us," Schumann said.
"We got a bit nervy when he got the blocks but we came up with some good play and we have to keep doing that tomorrow and whenever we pay these big tournaments."