Leadership and experience fuel Adelaide Storm’s AVL 2022 title run
After a two-year break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the consensus at the start of the AVL season was that the title was up for grabs and it was any team’s opportunity to win.
With many franchises recruiting new players and developing young talents in their ranks, the Adelaide Storm decided their best chance for success was to rely on experience first, as they built a roster filled with talent and selected after an extremely competitive process.
As the AVL reached its halfway mark last weekend, all signs indicate that their strategy is working, with their teams winning 13 out of 16 matches played so far and the men’s squad still undefeated on a 8-0 run.
Results might be exceeding expectations, but standards were always going to be set high by captains Beth Carey and Nathan Roberts, two formidable athletes and capable leaders both on and off the court.
Middle-blocker Carey carries on the authority that comes from being a former Australian Women’s Volleyroos team’s captain, while pass hitter Roberts is an Olympian from London 2012 with 395 caps for Australia and three World Championship participation on his resume.
If Roberts set the tone, the rest of the men’s Storm embraced it fully, with Head Coach Derek Slater always keen to praise the camaraderie and togetherness of the group. When the captain is not on the court, there is enough talent to keep Adelaide on course for a record season, with opposite Regan Fathers and outside hitters Ryan Scutter and Simon Coat amongst the many Storm players to shine over the first four weeks of the AVL season.
The last round also marked the season’s debut of Stefanie Weiler in the women’s team. The current Volleyroos outside hitter has previous experience in the Swedish elite league and on the Beach Volleyball World Pro Tour, where she also claimed a bronze medal in 2019. Weiler immediately showed that she is another fearsome arrow in the Storm’s quiver alongside fellow outside hitter and vice-captain Anna Schoof, previously a participant of the Volleyball Australia Centre of Excellence program and U23 Australian team member.
Women’s team coach Alexis Lebedew said this is the deepest and most experienced team he’s ever coached in the AVL, but the Storm are not just about experience, though. The South Australian franchise are very fortunate to have a great mix of athletes coming from their South Australian Volleyball League clubs who are very excited to see the return of the AVL competition, and keen to prove themselves against Australia’s best.
This includes some promising junior players, too. Australian Junior Team members Sophia Soderberg and Charlie Disbury have happily embraced the Storm’s team culture and keep developing under the leadership of their inspiring teammates.
With two AVL rounds still to be played – the Storm get a bye on week 7 – the League interrogates itself on whether the work ethic, tactical awareness and habit to play on the big stages of some of the Adelaide players will be enough to finally take the titles to South Australia.
The men’s team is already locked in for the Finals, sitting at the top of the table on 24 points, eight points ahead of the the WA Steel in second and with a great shot at claiming success. While the women’s team is not far behind, currently in third on 15 points, but only three points behind Victoria in first and one point behind WA in second. With one month to go until the AVL Finals on the Gold Coast, it might be a stormy end of season for the AVL.