Australian Volleyball League – Round 6 Wrap
QLD Pirates vs Tasmanian Echidnas
Men’s Game 1 – QLD 3:0 TAS (25-22; 25-18; 25-21)
Men’s Game 2 – QLD 3:2 TAS (15-25; 23-25; 25-19; 25-23; 15-11)
Saturday’s opening match between the Men’s Pirates and Echidnas was a tale of two Connors, with both Connor Rudder and Connor O’Neill hitting over the block and finding the Tassie floor with alarming regularity for the QLD team. The steadying force of Kieran Ivers was all that was needed for Bryce Kelly’s team to claim a swift three-set victory.
Sunday’s match saw a much closer contest at Iona College that turned into a five-set thriller. The Tassie men came out firing to confidently claim the first set 25-15, and hold onto their lead 25-23 in the second.
But the Pirates weren’t done yet, and they took control of the match in the third and fourth sets to level the playing field heading into the decider. The fifth set was anyone’s game, but with Pirates’ starting setter Ewan Thiele upping the team’s momentum, Queensland secured their second win of the weekend with a 15-11 final set.
“We started very slowly in the first two sets,” Pirates Head Coach Bryce Kelly said. “Our bench really stood up in the third set, which helped swing the momentum our way. I was happy with the way the team fought all the way to the end.”
Women’s Game 1 – QLD 3:0 TAS (25-13; 25-15; 25-14)
Women’s Game 2 – QLD 3:1 TAS (25-22; 25-15; 17-25; 25-8)
The Women’s Echidnas were looking for their maiden AVL victory this weekend, but the Pirates were on fire on Saturday, winning in three dominant sets.
With a comfortable lead, the Pirates took the chance to give a debut to 15-year-old emerging star Matisse Conlon, the daughter of former Pirates Kristan and Michael Conlon. The young talent won a point for the team on her very first swing, while Kayla Cantrill also made her debut for the Pirates.
Sunday’s game saw a vastly improved Tasmanian team take to the court. The Echidnas got an early lead in the opening set before the patience and experience of the Pirates allowed them to claim the first two sets. However the Echidnas held on in the third and could even sense an upset, spurred by their small, but vocal supporter group. They continued their relentless defence and well-directed attack to win their first set of round six, 25-17.
The Pirates kicked into a new gear in the fourth set and the consistent setting of Captain Kylee White and Michaela Strati proved to be the difference, as they directed their attack with silky smooth hands from all over the court, coming out convincing victors 25-8 in the fourth set.
“Yesterday we were a bit slow, but today we brought it, in particular Lucy Allwright,” Echidnas’ Head Coach Greg Anderson said. “We had a really good connection between our setters and our hitters. Our defence is something we love to do. We stayed in a lot of points that way.”
NSW Phoenix vs Melbourne Vipers
Men’s Game 1 – NSW 3:0 VIC (25-13, 25-21, 25-21)
Men’s Game 2 – NSW 3:2 VIC (25-18, 27-25, 24-26, 22-25, 15-8)
Fresh off the back of two wins against Tasmania, the Phoenix Men started the weekend strong and took an early lead in Game 1. Some incredible blocking by Chris Twin was supported by efficient offence by Tim Taylor and Dean Bosschieter to run away with the first set 25-13. Liam Van Genst led the Vipers with some good attack, scoring 12 points for the game, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Phoenix onslaught at bay, and the NSW boys took the first match of the weekend 3-0.
Day 2 and the Phoenix started strong again taking the first set 25-18 with some great passing and steady attack. The Victorians stepped up their game in the second set and NSW only managed to hang on by their fingernails 27-25.
With extra confidence, the Vipers took an early lead in the third set and, spurred on by their female teammates cheering loudly, they capitalised on some NSW mistakes to level the match 2-2. Melbourne jumped ahead to a 5-2 lead in the fifth, but knowing the season was on the line, the Phoenix once again rose to the challenge set in front of them. Superb reception by Ben Abbott and Ben Genenger, and unstoppable offence by Sean Bosschieter and Tim Taylor was supported by solid blocking by Chris Twine and Sam Cleary, with the Phoenix winning the fifth and final set of the weekend 15-8.
“We have been fighting hard and developing as a team all season,” Head Coach Chris Todd said. “Our block and defence has improved exponentially this season, and if we can reduce some of the errors on our side of the net, we will be able to take it to the Heat guys and earn our way through to Finals.”
Women’s Game 1 – NSW 1:3 VIC (16-25, 25-22, 21-25, 20-25)
Women’s Game 2 – NSW 3:1 VIC (25-22, 17-25, 26-24, 25-21)
The Women’s NSW Phoenix Team knocked the Melbourne Vipers off their undefeated perch, securing a 3-1 victory on Sunday after their 1-3 defeat on Saturday. With one round left to play, the Vipers are guaranteed a spot in the Final Four, while the Phoenix must still fight for their spot. The Vipers dropped only their third set of the entire AVL season on Saturday, but still took a convincing 3-1 victory.
On Sunday, an aggressive NSW team took to the court more hungry for points than their Victorian rivals, winning most of the long rallies. With the likes of Captain Laura Reeks keeping the team calm under pressure, and Kelli McLoud’s block game rattling the Melbourne attack, the NSW team came out victorious after a four-set battle, becoming the first team to defeat the Vipers after a 9-game winning streak.
NSW Head Coach Max Gubbiotti also congratulated Kim Myer on her game.
“A big compliment to Kim Meyer because she was called on the pitch in the most complicated moment of the match and played the last few points in an excellent way and helped the team find the victory,” he said.
Adelaide Storm v WA Steel
Women’s Game 1 – SA 1:3 WA (17-25, 25-17, 20-25, 16-25)
Women’s Game 2 – SA 3:2 WA (30-28, 19-25, 22-25, 25-23, 15-4)
In two highly anticipated games, the no. 2-ranked Adelaide Storm took on no.3-ranked WA Steel in South Australia. In Saturday’s match, the international experience of the Storm had no answers for the youth and determination of the WA Steel. The Steel opened up an early four point lead and was able to sustain it to upset the hosts in the first set. The Adelaide Storm were able to settle to take the second but Elyse Hislop for the Steel proved to be unstoppable with 19 points including an ace, an amazing eight blocks and 10 kills at 67%.
In the second game of the weekend, the storm came out with a determination that was noticeably absent from game 1. Beth Carey dominated in attack and defence, scoring through both consistent attack and putting up a wall at the net. Bec Reeve and Anna Schoof ably supported with 10+ points in attack. Caitlin Whincup was great for the Steel with double digits points but it wasn’t enough as the Storm took the win.
“WA are a really good team, and we played really well, especially on Sunday with us coming away with the 5-set win. Now the focus is on Finals and the preparation for that,” Storm Head Coach Alexis Lebedew said.
Men’s Game 1 – SA 2:3 WA (27-25, 28-26, 18-25, 22-25, 15-9)
Men’s Game 2 – SA 3:0 WA (25-20, 25-19, 25-20)
The men’s game lived up to all expectations as both teams set their eyes on a potential semi final matchup in the coming weeks. A battered lineup from the Storm saw captain Nathan Roberts relegated to taking stats on the bench and starting setter Jordan Colitti coped a wayward elbow from the boney frame of Brendan Clewes that saw him retire for the weekend early in the round. The WA visitors took advantage of this, coming back from an early deficit to take the advantage late in the set. The attack and defence of the Steel was too much for the Storm, who relinquished the match in five close sets. The fast outside attack of Jed Walker and Ky Landers were outstanding with 21 points each at 49% and 51% respectively.
In the second game of the weekend we saw very different teams enter the court with WA changing their lineup completely with the exceptions of Libero Oswald Tan, Mexican Olympian Jose Martinez and Landers. Storm also shuffled their line up after Colitti and Roberts were unavailable, opting to rest Simon Coat and moving Ryan Dagg to his natural position outside making room for exciting rookie Charlie Disbury making his debut through the middle. This new lineup was too much for the Steel as they struggled to find the same energy as they had in the opening day, succumbing to the Storm in three sets.
“Saturday’s game was a tough 5-set match, momentum fluctuated throughout and we ran through different rotations, however, we didn’t get the result we wanted,” Storms Coach Derek Slater said. “Overnight as coaches we reviewed the match and went into Sunday starting a different rotation which paid dividends and we came away with the win.”