Vanuatu women’s beach volleyball team is still on the qualifying path for the 2024 Olympic Games after losing to New Zealand (NZ) in a hard-fought battle.

NZ defeated Vanuatu in 2 sets to one in the final clash at the Ocean’s AVC Continental Qualifier Phase 1 Tournament last Sunday afternoon.

President of the Vanuatu Volleyball Federation (VVF), Debbie Masauvakalo, explained that while NZ goes straight to the final round of the Olympic qualification where eight teams from the Asia zone play for a place at the Olympics, Vanuatu as runner up will move to the qualifying phase 2.

“Vanuatu will play the second place of all the other five zones of Asia in the semi-final. If we come first or second we progress to the finals and if we win the finals we go to the Olympics,” she said.

The second and final qualifying rounds takes place in June next year, just before the Olympics in July. The events will be much bigger than the recent event, as it will include teams from the whole of Asia.

Director General (DG) of the Ministry of Sports, Russel Tamata, has confirmed the Vanuatu Government’s interest in bidding for the final rounds.

“The government is interest making a bid to host the next event. If successful, we can host it here come June next year. We are already begin dialogue with regional federations for the bid,” he said.

He said the government will provide funds to build another beach volleyball court if the bid successful.

The skills and athleticism of Vanuatu’s top beach volleyball players-Sherysyn Toko, Majabelle Lawac, Linline Matauatu and Loti Joe were on display in every single match of the recent tournament in Port Vila.

Each participating nation-Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, New Zealand and Tuvalau has four players split into two teams.

Team one from each national plays each other and the same for the second teams, using a normal best-of-three set beach volleyball format. If the results are one match a piece then a third golden match in played.

Toko and Lawac started the tournament wining Solomon Islands team 1 in two sets each, same for Matauatu and Joe, advancing them to the final.

In the finals, Lawac and Toko could not get a win against NZ’s pair of Alice Zieman and Olivia MacDonald. However, the second team performed really well against the NZ’s number 2 team forcing a golden match. Vanuatu battled to win the first set.NZ fought back to gain the second set and they went for a third set where NZ won by a close goal difference.

President Masauvakalo said despite their loss, they won the hearts of the local crowds.

“They gave in everything but unfortunately they didn’t get the third set, but I think they won the hearts of the people because they played so strong and fight so much for Vanuatu,” she said.

Player Joe was happy a lot of fans were at the event.

“I am so happy to represent Vanuatu and played in front of this home crowd which is much bigger than the Pacific Mini Games,” she said.

Meanwhile, Masauvakalo has also emphasized the importance of collaboration between VFF and the Ministry of Sports to ensuring a successful tournament.

She thanked all supporters, fans and sponsors for their assistance.She also acknowledged the ministry for believing in VFF to host the regional tournament.