Australian Volleyball League – Round 5 Wrap
Melbourne Vipers v Canberra Heat
Women’s Game 1: VIC 3:0 ACT (25-19, 25-22, 25-11)
Women’s Game 2: VIC 3:1 ACT (25-18, 25-22, 17-25, 25-21)
After 6 wins on the trot, the women’s Melbourne Vipers were up and about at home against a young and confident ACT Heat team during round 5 of the 2022 AVL.
While the Vipers secured a straight set victory in the opening match, thanks to a stand out performance by left side hitter Molly Richardson and aggressive serving with strong combination attacks from Jemma Stokes, Heat’s Ella Milne also had a stand-out game, putting the Vipers under pressure particularly in the second set.
“One of the biggest things we can take away from today is just how we were very cohesive, the entire time we were able to keep our composure,” Molly Richardson said on Smash FM’s Smash Sport Show after the game. “We did prepare ourselves and we knew that we were going to be coming up against a very young, fit, very good team. We knew that we were going to have a few moments when we might have a few lows but we were able to make sure we stayed very level-headed, kept our composure, with a lot of really good communication and energy and we just kept momentum on our side.”
Sunday’s game saw a closer contest, with ACT applying the heat and breaking through the Vipers blocks successfully to claim a set from the top-of-the-table Victorians. ACT worked hard in defence to keep themselves in the match, making for some outstanding rallies and putting the Vipers on the back foot in the third set, however composure in the fourth set gave the Vipers another victory, extending their winning streak to 8-0 and cementing their position in the top four on the road to the AVL finals.
Men’s Game 1: VIC 0:3 ACT (17-25, 27-29, 20-25)
Men’s Game 2: VIC 0:3 ACT (23-25, 15-25, 15-25)
Canberra came out strong in the first match of the Men’s double-header and took a good opening set, before switching off in the second, dropping intensity and focus. Luckily they regrouped behind opposite Sam Walker, who led them fiercely as they came back to claim a tight second set and eventually the first match, won in straight sets.
The Vipers showed positive signs over the weekend, especially from some of their younger squad members. Young talents Changmin Lee and Alex Bye in particular will treasure the experience of playing against the likes of Walker, Andre and Nic Borgeaud, something that will hold them in great stead heading into the future. Walker in particular, on serve and from the right side of the court, was a major reason why Canberra enjoyed long periods of success and went home with two wins.
“We just couldn’t find answers on Walker’s serve,” commented Vipers’ Pat Howes. “He served tough and we managed to get through a couple of times, but when he held, he kept the pressure on for long periods.”
Adelaide Storm v Queensland Pirates
Women’s Game 1: SA 2:3 QLD (25-20, 25-13, 21-25, 22-25, 11-15)
Women’s Game 2: SA 3:1 QLD (33-35, 25-18, 25-20, 25-11)
The Women’s Storm and Pirates played some fantastic volleyball over the weekend, starting with an epic 5-set match on Saturday. Queensland fell behind 0-2 before mounting a spectacular comeback and taking the match 11-15 at the decider.
Epic was also the first set of the second match, which the Pirates managed to claim 35-33 despite powerful hitting from both teams. It was all Storm from there though, with Adelaide using all players on court over the two matches and Stef Weiler once again the stand-out player in an overall great team effort.
“I thought the team did really well,” commented Storm Head Coach Alexis Lebedew. “We’ve got lots of options, we are trying to get people in different roles and, over the weekend, we were able to have people playing multiple roles. We’re happy to come away with the 4 points.”
Men’s Game 1: SA 1:3 QLD (22-25, 20-25, 25-20, 20-25)
Men’s Game 2: SA 1:3 QLD (25-23, 19-25, 19-25, 20-25)
A focused and enthusiastic Queensland team travelled to Adelaide determined to inflict the first loss of the season to the Storm. Both games featured some amazing rallies and impressive play from the two teams, but an aggressive Pirates squad focussed on playing a power game that won them critical points in all the big moments, taking both matches in four sets.
“The weekend provided an opportunity to run a few different line-ups, providing guys the opportunity to impress,” commented Storm’s Head Coach Derek Slater. “Brendan Clewes continues to be a work horse, playing every set of each game so far. Injuries provide a chance for everyone to reset and re-evaluate prior to our last regular season games this coming weekend, but a laser-like focus is required by the group moving forward,” he said.
Tasmania Echidnas v NSW Phoenix
Women’s Game 1: TAS 0:3 NSW (18-25, 23-25, 21-25)
Women’s Game 2: TAS 0:3 NSW (21-25, 22-25, 20-25)
The Tassie Echidnas hosted their final round at home with two days of intense game play. Led by Laura Reeks and with Marisa Ogasawara playing a solid game as libero, Phoenix had all the answers against some strong attacks from the home team. Triin Thorpe and Natalia Ribeiro played consistently on both days, while Kaitlyn Palfrey was strong on the net.
Lucy Allwright aced several serves to keep a determined Echidnas team closer to winning, but the Phoenix women held them off to win on both days. Great setting by Brittney Carlson to hitters Lacey Bruce and Olivia Musal rounded off a solid squad performance for the Phoenix.
“The girls played with a lot of patience and kept finding solutions to difficult situations all weekend,” said NSW captain Laura Reeks. “Every time we are together is an opportunity to continue fostering our team culture which is key for this group.”
Echidnas’ Coach Greg Anderson said the team played aggressive volleyball all weekend with strong serving from Lucy Allwright. “But our opponents played cleverly on Saturday to attack holes in our defence. Both games were intense with long rallies, a hard-fought match.”
Men’s Game 1: TAS 0:3 NSW (22-25, 19-25, 24-26)
Men’s Game 2: TAS 1:3 NSW (25-21, 16-25, 27-29, 21-25)
The men’s games were fought just as hard, with very competitive play over the two days. NSW Libero Josh Hillard proved unbeatable in defence with big hitters Tim Taylor and Sean Bosschieter hard to manage from an Echidnas’ perspective.
Jan Jansen, Brad Bailey and Josh Evans hit and defended well for the Echidnas, but a determined Phoenix outfit didn’t let up. Some outstanding passages of play were enjoyed by the home crowds, but Captain Ben Abbott held his team steady to take both wins against Josh Thorpe’s side.
“This weekend was a real mental challenge for us,” said Echidnas Men Captain Josh Thorpe. “The reality of backing up every weekend has now set in and fatigue has become a factor. We probably let it get the best of us on Saturday, but did a good job of fighting through Sunday.
“We were disappointed to come away from the weekend without a win, but NSW were fantastic in the tight moments at the end of sets. We’ll take it as another learning experience and prepare to go again next week on the road,” he said.