Vanuatu’s Matauatu & Miller long journey to Sochi

Sochi, Russia, May 4, 2016 - Traveling long distances to play Beach Volleyball at international stops is nothing new for Linline Matauatu and Pata Miller of Vanuatu, but traveling from Brazil to Russia in a 36-hour period to compete in the US$150,000 Sochi Open is tough.
 
“With left Fortaleza late Sunday and arrived here at 11 a.m. Tuesday,” said Vanuatu coach Jason Lochhead after Matauatu and Miller had placed fourth in the Brazilian stop for their best-ever finish on the FIVB World Tour.  “And of course, we had to play the first match here Wednesday, so that is a tough task.”
 
After boarding an airplane in Fortaleza for a flight across the Atlantic to Portugal, Lochhead and the two Vanuatu players missed their connection in Lisbon and had a 12-hour layover before flying to Moscow.  After a five-hour wait in the Russian capital, the trio flew to Sochi.
 
SLOW START
 
After a slow start against 26th-seeded Anastasia Barsuk and Alexandra Moiseeva of Russia by dropping the first set 21-14 in their 8:30 a.m. (local time) match, the seventh seeded Matauatu and Miller rallied to win the second set 21-17 and led briefly in the deciding set before being out-scored 8-5 to lose the third set 15-12 in the 39-minute Pool G match.

Matauatu and Miller play 23rd-seeded Alexandra Jupiter and Laura Longuet of France in their second match Wednesday and conclude group action Thursday mid-day against 10th-seeded Emily Day and Jennifer Kessy of the United States.  The Vanuatuans have a 2-0 match mark against the French pair while Day and Kessy defeated Matauatu and Miller last June at the United States Grand Slam in St. Petersburg, Fla.
 
“We are not as tired as we should be after three plane flights, a missed connection and 17 hours of layovers,” said the 27-year old Miller.  “For us, we are used to traveling a lot.  Getting to Fortaleza, we had to travel from China after playing in Xiamen and Fuzhou.  Next week we have a short trip to Turkey (Antalya) followed by a flight to the United States (Cincinnati) and then on to Moscow.
 
NO. 17 ON OLYMPIC LIST
 
For the Vanuatu pair all the events are important as they seek a spot in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games via the FIVB World Tour where berths are available for the top 15 teams, excluding Brazilians, with a maximum of two per country.  Matauatu and Miller are currently No 17 with 3,540 points for their best 12 finishes on the international circuit and Asian continental championships.  
 
The Vanuatuans trail No. 15 Ana Gallay and Georgina Klug of Argentina (3,930) by 390 points for the final spot.  To improve their point total, Matauatu and Miller must finish ninth this week so gain at least 60 points.  The Argentinean women must reach the quarter-finals of the Sochi Open to increase their point total.
 
“They have a tough schedule ahead of them,” said 32-year old Lochhead, who knows something about traveling the world playing Beach Volleyball for nine seasons for New Zealand.  “Both players are very low key, but are very competitive.  It is a joy being their coach.”
 
CYCLONE PAM
 
Combined with the travel and the competition are lingering thoughts from Cyclone Pam (category five) that hit Vanuatu in March 2015.  "Unfortunately for Pata, she lost the front of her house and Lin has lost her house,” said Vanuatu Volleyball Federation president Debbie Masaufakalo in an article last March.  Lin’s house fell down and then the river came up and her house and all her possessions are under two foot of mud.”
 
Although losing a match early Wednesday morning was disappointing, just think of the task the two Vanuatu players face in traveling across the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans the past two weeks.  If you what to talk about problems, just listen to Matauatu and Miller about recovering from devastating storm.
 
CHINESE ALSO
 
Xinyi Xia and Chen Xue also faced the same long journey as the Vanuatu pair and the 13th-seeded China team dropped a 2-0 (21-17, 21-13) decision in 30 minutes to 20th-seeded Tatyana Mashkova and Irina Tsimbalova of Kazakhstan.  Xia and Xue play a team from Latvia later Wednesday with a mid-day match Thursday against fourth-seeded Joana Heidrich and Nadine Zumkehr of Switzerland to complete Pool D play.

With 95 men’s and women’s teams from 32 countries competing in the second Sochi Open, the Black Sea coastal resort tournament is the first of two events in the Eurasian country this month with Moscow staging a Grand Slam May 24-29.  Competition continues through Sunday where the winning men’s and women’s pairs will each share the $11,000 first-place prizes.
 
UP NEXT
 
Following Sochi, the final four FIVB World Tour qualifying events will be played in Turkey (Antalya, 10-15), the United States (Cincinnati, May 17-22), Moscow (May 24-29) and Germany (Hamburg, June 7-12).  Also counting towards Olympic qualification will be the European championships June 1-5 in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland.  The Rio 2016 Olympic Games will be played August 6-18 on iconic Copacabana.
 



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