Tuesday, 23 April 2024

International Volleyball



After two years, MacNeil & Russell return to Coolangatta for another medal, this time gold

Stefanie Fejes & Jana Milutinovic rejoice in Coolangatta (source: Rogue Gun Photography)

Australiaโ€™s Stefanie Fejes & Jana Milutinovic defended their Coolangatta crown from 2023 and repeated their success at the 2024 edition of the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Futures event, making it three podiums in a row since the start of the season after also winning a Mollymook Futures gold and a Mount Maunganui Futures silver. Meanwhile, USAโ€™s Alaina Chacon & Mariah Whalen continued their climb from the fourth place in Mollymook and the third place in Mount Maunganui to a second place in Coolangatta. Japanโ€™s Suzuka Hashimoto & Reika Murakami completed the womenโ€™s podium.

Canadaโ€™s Jake MacNeil & Alexander Russell, who picked up the first-ever world-level medal for either of them with a Coolangatta Futures second place two years ago, had to wait for their return to Coolangatta to claim their second, and this time it was gold. They spoiled the host nationโ€™s full triumph by leaving home favourites Paul Burnett & Jack Pearse with the silver. The bronze went to New Zealandโ€™s Thomas Reid & John McManaway.


Third consecutive final for Fejes & Milutinovic

19-year-old Stefanie Fejes and 22-year-old Jana Milutinovic cruised to the semifinals on a perfect run of three straight-set victories. In the battle for a spot in the final, however, the top-seeded Australians lost the first set to fifth-seeded Suzuka Hashimoto & Reika Murakami. It was the only set they lost all tournament. Bouncing back to a 2-1 (18-21, 21-12, 15-8) turnaround, they advanced to their third Futures final in a row.

Unlike the previous event in New Zealand, where they conceded the gold to the top-seeded home team in the only match they have lost on the Beach Pro Tour this year, Fejes & Milutinovic delivered an emphatic 2-0 (21-17, 21-14) sweep of the gold medal match against fourth-seeded Alaina Chacon & Mariah Whalen to retain the Coolangatta title from last year and delight the home fans in Australia.


After winning their three matches on the way to the semis, 25-year-old Americans Chacon & Whalen secured an upgrade from the first Tour podium they earned with the Mount Maunganui bronze by adding a fourth win to their streak in Coolangatta, a 2-1 (21-18, 16-21, 15-6) semifinal victory over 13th-seeded…

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