THERE were mixed fortunes for local beach volleyball players representing England as LeAF Academy hosted the opening stage of Rio 2016 qualifying at the weekend.
Competing in Pool D of the 2014- 2016 Continental Cup first round, there was joy for Poole-raised Gregg Weaver and Bournemouth University student Phil Smith as England won the men’s event.
However, Christchurch-born Olympian Zara Dampney and LeAF’s Jess Grimson were part of the women’s team that despite making the final, eventually finished third out of four.
The men advanced straight into round three but Dampney & Co will now compete in round two later this summer.
In the first international beach volleyball competition to take place in England since London 2012, Weaver and Smith got the men off to a good start with a swift 2-0 win over Slovakian pair Jakub Ihnat and Marek Meciar (21-11, 21-10).
A subsequent 2-0 victory for Chris Gregory and Jake Sheaf put the hosts in the final where they faced a Switzerland outfit that play regularly on the World Tour.
Finding Sebastien Chevallier and Alexei Strasser too hot to handle, Weaver and Smith suc- cumbed to a 2-0 loss (21-13, 21-16).
However, they were bailed out by Sheaf and Gregory, who beat Mats Kovatsch and Jonas Kissling and then Chevallier and Strasser to earn a 2-1 overall win.
Dampney and Savanah Leaf opened up with a 2-1 triumph over Andrea Krskova and Nina Herelova (17-21, 24-22, 15-13), in which they saved four match points.
However, Grace Lazard and Grimson’s 2-0 loss to Tina Turnerova and Gabi Tomasekova on their international beach debuts (22-20, 21-13) meant the encounter went down to a golden match.
It was left to ex-Parkstone Grammar pupil Dampney and Leaf to triumph 2-0 over Turnerova and Tomasekova (21- 19, 21-12) to win the tie 2-1 overall.
In the final against Sweden, Lazard and Grimson were sunk 2- 0 (21-10, 21-16) despite a brave display against Nina Grawender and Karin Lundqvist.
Their English team-mates earned a narrow 2-0 success over Camilla Nilsson and Tadva Yoken (22-20, 21-18) to send the clash to a golden match.
There Dampney and Leaf lost out 2-1 in a 57-minute thriller to Grawender and Lundqvist and failed to capitalise on match points to win it (15-21, 21-18, 18-16).
Playing off for second, England suffered a 2-1 loss to Slovakia.
Dampney and Leaf saw off Krskova and Herelova 2-0 (21-15, 21-15), but Lazard and Grimson were defeated 2-0 (21-18, 21-15) by Turnerova and Tomasekova.
Then, in the golden match, Dampney and Leaf lost 2-0 to Turnerova and Tomasekova (21- 13, 21-17) as the Slovakians gained revenge for their earlier defeat.