Australian Volleyball League – Round 7 wrap
That’s a wrap on the seven-round AVL season for 2022. The top four teams have been decided and they will all converge in the Gold Coast in two weeks’ time for the AVL Finals, to determine who will be crowned national champions for 2022!
Melbourne Vipers v QLD Pirates
Women’s Game 1: VIC 2:3 QLD (25-23, 25-23, 23-25, 23-25, 25-17)
Women’s Game 2: VIC 2:3 QLD (25-16, 23-25, 25-20, 21-25, 13-15)
With the Women’s Vipers having already secured the top spot on the ladder with one round to go, it was the QLD Pirates who had everything to play for in Round 7 of the AVL. With an equal number of games won and lost heading into the final round, QLD knew they would need to bring their all to have a chance of defeating the 9-win, 1-loss Vipers, and there’s no denying that QLD brought their A-Game – walking away with two wins after back-to-back five-set tussles.
There was great home crowd support for the Vipers, who also celebrated the last ever home match for Victorian stalwarts Kelly Lean and Monique Stojanovic. However consistent and hard hitting from QLD’s Emma Burton and Jessica Russell-Croucher kept QLD in both matches even when the Vipers looked in control.
The Vipers tried various combinations to match QLD’s attack, but they just couldn’t put the ball away when it counted the most in both 5th sets.
QLD’s efforts were rewarded, as they slid into fourth place on the overall standings to secure a place in the AVL finals. However, with the Pirates seeded forth and the Vipers still in first, the semifinals in two weeks’ time will be a rematch of this weekend – a recipe for another epic battle on the Gold Coast.
Men’s Game 1: VIC 1:3 QLD (22-25, 25-20, 21-25, 22-25)
Men’s Game 2: VIC 1:3 QLD (25-23, 25-27, 22-25, 27-29)
Sitting at the bottom of the men’s ladder, the Vipers knew they had a tough final draw, coming up against the top-of-the-table Pirates in round 7. The Vipers didn’t go down without a fight and pushed QLD to four sets in both games, with a couple of sets even extending beyond the 25 point-mark. QLD cemented their top spot on the leaderboard with two victories, and will be heading into the Final as the team to beat.
Dan Cleary, Alex Bye and Liam van Gemst stood out for Melbourne, scoring through the wings and allowing the Vipers to side out effectively.
Connor Rudder was fantastic on offence for the Pirates all weekend, and Kieran Ivers was particularly strong on serve, allowing for momentum to be well and truly in the Pirates’ favour.
Canberra Heat v NSW Phoenix
Men’s Game 1: ACT 3:1 NSW (19-25, 25–15, 25–12, 25–19)
Men’s Game 2: ACT 3:0 NSW (25-16, 25-19, 25-19)
With both Men’s teams vying for a spot in the AVL finals, it was a crucial weekend for the Heat and Phoenix in Canberra. After coming off a bye, the Heat were slow out of the gates for the first game of the round.
After going point-for-point for much of the first set, a lapse in communication and some unforced errors for Canberra saw NSW take the first set 19-25. With their season on the line, the Heat returned to take the next three sets and secure their place in the 2022 AVL Finals. The Heat’s success continued into the Sunday matches, with Canberra taking the second match 3-0 (25-16, 25-19, 25-19).
Women’s Game 1: ACT 3:0 NSW (25-23, 25-21, 26-24)
Women’s Game 2: ACT 3:1 NSW (25-18, 25-22, 15-25, 25-20)
Heading into round seven seeded sixth, the Canberra Heat Women knew it was their last weekend of the season, while the NSW Phoenix still had a finals berth in their grasp. However it was the home team who looked more dominant over the weekend, rounding out their season with a double victory and ending NSW’s hopes of a Finals fun in Queensland.
In a close first game, the Heat came out firing and took the first two sets 25-23 and 25-21. In the third set they found themselves in an eight-point deficit and had to fight to keep the set alive. Holding on and saving four set points, the Heat secured the set 26-24 and the match 3-0.
Everything was now riding on the final match of the round for the NSW Women. Canberra took the first set 25-18 in a dominant performance. Unfortunately, injuries plagued both sides throughout the match with Canberra’s middle Cassie Dodd heading to the sideline late in the second set with an ankle injury. The Heat held on to take the set 25-22. Despite NSW fighting back and taking the third set 15-25, the Heat were too good on the day and closed out the match in the forth set.
WA Steel v Tasmanian Echidnas
Men’s Game 1: WA 3:0 TAS (25-23, 25-20, 25-20)
Men’s Game 2: WA 3:2 TAS (25-22, 25-21, 23-25, 28-30, 15-6)
The WA Steel cemented their spot in the top four defeating Tasmania in both games, in their last home weekend for the season. While the Echidnas pushed them to five close sets on Sunday, the Steel will be feeling confident heading into the finals in two weeks’ time.
Steel Head Coach Ben Gray congratulated Tasmania on a strong weekend, and shared his excitement for the finals ahead.
“Firstly I would like to thank Tasmania for what was a great weekend of volleyball,” Gray said. “They really pushed us in the final game and it’s been great to see their progress over the season.
“For us, to come away with two wins this weekend was a great way to end the regular season and build momentum into finals. I’m extremely proud of the growth of our squad throughout the season. To make the Finals is exciting, but we know our job isn’t finished.
“We look forward to the challenges that will present to us over in QLD.”
Women’s Game 1: WA 3:0 TAS (26-24, 25-10, 25-17)
Women’s Game 2: WA 3:0 TAS (25-6, 25-18, 25-9)
Unfortunately the Women’s Echnidas ended their debut AVL season winless, after the Steel proved why they are the second ranked women’s team in the competition and secured two straight-set victories in round 7.
WA Women’s Head Coach, Pauline Manser said the final home round of the season provided a great opportunity for the Steel “to showcase their growth over the course of the season.”
“The team was well supported by a number of subs across the weekend, broadening the experiences for a number of our younger athletes,” Manser said.
“Finishing the regular season in second place after a tough first round is testament to the hard work and adjustments the team has made across the course of the season. Our ability to adapt and change has built a foundation of confidence needed to have a successful Finals campaign. We are up for the challenge!”