Chris McHugh and Damien Schumann will need a win in their last pool match to keep their Olympic campaign alive, after conceding defeat in straight sets today against representatives of the Russian Olympic Committee Ilya Leshukov and Konstantin Semenov at Shiokaze Park.
Seven-foot tall Semenov was a dominant force at the net, with the triple Olympian preventing the Australians from recapturing the rhythm they showed in their brilliant performance that forced world no.1 Norway to a tie-break on Saturday.
The first set was fought point for point early on, with neither team able to establish a meaningful lead. Almost halfway through the set, Semenov and Leshukov broke away behind a couple of skillful swings, expertly placed at the net by the 32-year old Russian blocker.
Semenov wrapped up the opener 21-14 with one of his trademark blocks.
The 2018 Commonwealth Champions attempted to swing the momentum early in the second set, but some powerful hitting from the ROC pair and some wayward swinging from the Australian duo saw ROC jump to an early lead. Semenov sealed the match with a block for a 21-16 second set.
Damien Schumann said a couple of mistakes in the crucial rallies of the first set ended up making a big impact on the direction of the match.
“When you’re playing this level of teams, when you make one or two mistakes, it’s very hard to catch up,” Schumann said.
“We were pretty even with them until halfway through the first set, when we made a couple of unforced errors and they made a couple of good plays. It was very hard to catch up after that,” he said.
“Damo and I didn’t play our best today,” McHugh said. “We started off reasonably well, but they changed their tactics halfway through the set and we just couldn’t adjust well enough.
“We have another opportunity to bounce back against Spain on Wednesday and that’s going to be do or die.”
The Australians will face Herrera/Gaviria (SPA) in their last preliminary pool match on Wednesday 28 July at 6pm AEST. A win will keep the Aussie’s chance of qualifying through to the knockout stage alive, pending other pool match results.
Schumann said he and McHugh will analyse today’s performance with the coaches, hoping to make the necessary adjustments and bring their game back to the quality shown in their Olympic debut against Norway.
“Every team you play is quite different, so all the tactics change,” he said.
“That’s part of the fun of beach volleyball. Every team’s got a different way of doing things and sometimes you match up well and sometimes they have a really good day and things work out well for them.”
“We will have a look at the video of the match and have a chat with the coaches to see what’s going on. If there are any adjustments that we need to make, we’ll make them to get ready for Spain,” Schumann said.
“Through our first two matches we have shown that our best is good enough to compete with the best in the world,” McHugh said.
“It’s just about doing it a bit more regularly and for longer periods of time. Our game style matches up pretty well with Spain, so we’re looking forward to the challenge.
“Playing a must-win, decisive game like our matchup against Spain is liberating in some respect, but can be quite scary as well. It’s great to have another opportunity to step out onto the court and represent Australia,” he said.
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