Singapore's hopes of a top-five finish at this year's Commonwealth Games beach volleyball competition received a boost yesterday thanks to a favourable draw.
The Republic's women's team are in Group C alongside Vanuatu, New Zealand and Rwanda for the April 6-12 tournament on the Gold Coast. The top two sides from each of the three groups and the two best third-ranked teams advance to the quarter-finals.
Singapore coach Dean Martin was pleased with the draw that pits his charges against familiar foes.
The Kiwi pair of Kelsie Wills and Shaunna Polley are ranked 53rd in the world, five spots ahead of Vanuatu's Loti Joe and Linline Matautu.
Martin and his charges scouted and competed against them several times last year and the Canadian felt that experience will be pivotal in Australia.
While his new pairing of Lau Ee Shan and Ong Wei Yu are unranked, they possessed the element of surprise, Martin noted, as neither the New Zealanders nor the Vanuatuans have faced Lau.
Martin said: "We'll be the underdogs and I think our opponents will be surprised."
This will be Lau's first international beach volleyball competition, but Martin is confident the former schools volleyball player can hold her own.
The sport is making its Commonwealth Games debut and Canada and Australia are favourites for the women's gold when the action starts at Coolangatta Beachfront.
The Singapore team will train with visiting players from Hong Kong, and are looking to practise in Thailand or Indonesia next month before the Games. The last phase of preparations involves fine-tuning of tactical and strategic play.
Singapore open their campaign against Vanuatu on April 7 before facing New Zealand and Rwanda over the next two days.
While competition at the Games will be stiff, Martin is cautiously optimistic.
"It won't be an easy task to beat them or to play against them, for that matter," he said.
"If we put our best against their best, it'll be a flip of the coin to see who can win."