Wednesday, 7 June 2023

International Volleyball

The New Zealand ‘mid-major’ seeking to prove herself

The New Zealand 'mid-major' seeking to prove herself

HERMOSA BEACH, Calif. — It has been more than 10 years since Tri Bourne last visited New Zealand, competing on its once-proud domestic tour with Will Montgomery. He couldn’t remember the route he took to get there, or how long that itinerary would have taken.

“It’s 10 to 12 hours to Auckland,” Alice Zeimann told him. “Depending on the wind.”

She knows this because, well, Alice Zeimann is the type of person who knows these things. Already in 2023, Zeimann has flown from New Zealand to Southern California to Mexico to Southern California to Brazil to Southern California to the UK and, you guessed it, back to Southern California. She hasn’t been home, to Mount Maunganui, a jewel of a coastal city in New Zealand, since she departed for a California-based training camp this past winter. She has no plans on a return flight home, either.

Such is life of a New Zealand professional beach volleyball player: Pack your bags, hit the road, and stay on it until there’s nothing left to play.

“Honestly I just turn up and play,” Zeimann said on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “I feel like this year, I can’t think too much about it, I’m just going to turn up and we’re going to win matches  … We do have a bit of imposter syndrome with it, having the confidence to show up and be like ‘We can compete.’ ”

Zeimann and her partner, Shaunna Polley, are the top-ranked team in New Zealand. If that doesn’t sound like much of a noteworthy accomplishment, you aren’t entirely wrong. Zeimann and Polley are currently ranked No. 31 in the world. The next Kiwi team? No. 135. And even that’s not really accurate. After a 2022 season that featured just a single main draw, Olivia MacDonald and Jasmine Milton are no longer playing together. Which makes Zeimann and Polley the only New Zealand women’s team in the top 200.

That limited supply of talent, however, isn’t the only factor leading them to be the top New Zealand team. In 2021, Zeimann’s rookie year on the Beach Pro Tour, the two qualified for the main draw in all six tournaments in which they played. They won a gold medal in Portugal, took a fifth in Bulgaria despite Zeimann requiring an emergency trip and an IV at the local hospital, and closed the season with a fourth in the Brno two-star. By the end of 2022, they were in the main draw of an Elite16 in Torquay,…

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