The continued growth of beach volleyball in Marlborough was given another boost last week when Marlborough Girls' College students Olivia Nicholls and Lia Nicholls were named in the New Zealand under-17 beach volleyball team.
The unrelated teens, both 15, are part of a 10-strong NZ girls' squad heading to Melbourne in January to compete against Australian state teams in the Australian Junior Beach Championships. A 10-player NZ boys' squad is also crossing the ditch to play at the annual tournament.
Two of four South Island-based players selected in the team, the MGC pair earned their spots after impressing at a one-day trial camp they were nominated to attend in Nelson during the second week of the October school holidays. They found out they had made the cut on Thursday two weeks ago.
Like most beach players, Olivia and Lia both have backgrounds of several years in the indoor game.
Year 11 Olivia played for the MGC junior A team in 2010 and 2011, played for the senior Bs last season and is well and truly in the running for the 2012-13 senior A side. Lia, a year 10, also played for the junior As in 2011 and is playing for them again this season, along with being selected for the senior A team.
Their involvement in beach volleyball started less than two years ago following the construction of two beach courts at Lansdowne Park. However, it did not take long for them to prove they were just as capable outdoors on the sand as they were on a hardwood floor.
Following limited preparation, Lia won gold in the year 9 competition and Olivia claimed bronze in the year 10 division at the South Island Junior Beach Champs in November last year. While Olivia is too old this year, on November 30 Lia will attempt to add the year 10 crown to her resume when the South Island champs are hosted in Blenheim at the conclusion of the equivalent indoor event.
Along with playing at several tournaments in Nelson, Blenheim and possibly Christchurch over the next couple of months, the girls' preparation for their trip to Melbourne will include specialist training with Marlborough beach volleyball academy coaches Greg and Micah Lindsay-Brown.
The academy was only set up in the last month, so Olivia and Lia's selection has been timed perfectly with its formation.
Although achieving national honours is a big thrill, it also means their weekly volleyball schedule has become significantly busier. As well as training three times a week for indoor, they now have beach training and games four times a week, along with their own fitness and strength training.
The Australian Junior Beach Champs are being held at South Melbourne Beach from January 6-11.
- The Marlborough Express