Swindon AdvertiserLondon 2012: D-Day for Poole beach volleyball star Dampney (From Swindon Advertiser)

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London 2012: D-Day for Poole beach volleyball star Dampney

Swindon Advertiser: QUEST FOR LAST 16: Zara Dampney QUEST FOR LAST 16: Zara Dampney

POOLE’S Zara Dampney and team-mate Shauna Mullin are determined to learn the lessons from Tuesday’s sobering defeat to Italy.

The duo will bid to seal their place in the last 16 of the Olympic beach volleyball competition against Russia today.

Italian duo Greta Cicolari and Marta Mengatti are dark horses to get among the medals after a solid season on the World Tour and proved their class against the home favourites at Horse Guards Parade with a 21-18 21-12 win that took them safely into the knockout stage.

Tuesday’s match represented an increased degree of difficulty from Britain’s opening Pool F win over Canada, with the Italians the current European champions and ranked sixth in the world, behind only the likes of powerhouses Brazil, the United States, China and Holland.

Defeat against such calibre of opposition is therefore no disgrace, and the British pair are adamant they can turn the experience into a force for good when they face Russia’s Evgeniya Ukolova and Ekaterina Khomyakova, when a win will see them progress alongside the Italians.

“We’ll have done our homework, we’ll have a gameplan and we’ll come out fighting again. If we beat them we'll be second in our pool,” Mullin said.

Certainly improvements need to be made following Tuesday’s performance, when nerves were clearly in evidence.

More than once Mullin and Dampney went for the same ball, while twice Mullin fluffed straightforward bump shots when returning service.

“My finish, my touch, just wasn’t there,” said Mullin. “Some of those balls that pinged off me I should have really finished. It’s all just little tweaks we have to get right for Russia.

“I felt under pressure with their serves, they’re both good servers and I just wasn’t able to stick up to it.”

On the confusion between the two on some service points, Mullin added: “The wind was quite swirly so we just wanted to make sure that when they were serving down the middle we were both not running away from it.

“I guess we were both running towards it, which is a lot better than both of us leaving it!”

She added: “It’s very disappointing that we lost, but the performance is the major thing for us and if we’d have played two sets like we did the first set, I think we would be in a better frame of mind.

“It’s very disappointing to have lost that second set like that but we can’t forget all the good things that we did against Canada.

“We’ll go home, regroup, and then we start again.”

Regardless of the outcome of Thursday’s match, the British pair at very least will be able to leave the Games safe in the knowledge that they have raised the profile of their sport – not least among their peers at the athletes’ village.

“We went back to the village the other night after our win and everyone was talking about our match, about how they enjoyed it and how amazing it was,” said former Parkstone Grammar girl Dampney.

“It’s great to get the sport out there.”

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