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2018-04-08 10:23:00 CET

Kiwis relishing role as favorites

New Zealand’s Shaunna Polley and Kelsie Wills are no underdogs in Coolangatta.

Shaunna Polley in action at the Fort Lauderdale MajorShaunna Polley in action at the Fort Lauderdale Major

They made their Beach Volleyball Major Series debut at the Fort Lauderdale Major – but now, under the lights and the big crowd at the Commonwealth Games, New Zealand’s Shaunna Polley and Kelsie Wills are embracing their time in the spotlight on Coolangatta Beach.

The Kiwi pair lost in the second qualification stage in Florida in February, losing to eventual silver medalists Carole Horta and Taiana Lima.

Having started on the World Tour together last season – winning a bronze in Korea last July – the pair now have sights on Commonwealth glory.

And the All Blacks, currently ranked 46th in the world, are relishing their new-found status as favorites.

“It’s a bit weird for us actually – not being the underdog for once,” Kelise told us after the straight sets win over Singapore’s Lau Ee Shan and Ong Wei Yu. “Usually we don’t find ourselves favorites but we’re pretty confident in our game anyway.

“We expect a lot from these games – even though Rwanda and Singapore might be the underdogs we didn’t take them lightly – they’re still good players and we still have a job to do.

“The Fort Lauderdale Major gave us a little taster of what to expect. We didn’t get to play on the Center Court there, but it gave us an idea of how big the crowd is and how players interact with the crowd.”

The victory ensured Shaunna and Kelsie a place in the quarterfinals but first they must meet Vanuatu’s Linline Matatuatu and Miller Pata to decide who tops Pool C on Monday.

The Oceania favorites Linline and Miller also recorded their second successive victory of the Games, beating Rwanda’s Charlotte Nzayisenga and Denyse Mutatsimpunda in straight sets.

Meanwhile, in the opening match of the afternoon session, Trinidad and Tobago’s Daneil Williams and Daynte Stewart booked their place in the quarterfinals after beating Fijiian pair Sairusi Cavula and Inia Korowale. The Caribbean duo will now take on Australian favorites Damien Schumann and Chris McHugh for the right to win Pool A.

Want to know more about the athletes? Need to check all the results and forthcoming fixtures? Click here for all of the information as beach volleyball’s first appearance at the Commonwealth Games continues.

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