Perth women show Steel to claim title
Perth Steel have taken out the 2023 Scape Australian Volleyball Super League women’s final with an entertaining 3:1 victory over the Queensland Pirates at Bendigo’s Red Energy Arena.
The West Australians jumped out to a two-set advantage before Queensland came within two points of forcing a fifth set. However some of Perth’s big names stood up when it counted most to seal the win.
Earlier in the day the Melbourne Vipers claimed their second bronze medal in as many years with a 3:1 victory over Adelaide Storm.
2023 WOMEN’S FINAL
Perth Steel v Queensland Pirates 3:1 (18-13, 18-9, 16-18, 18-16)
After Queensland defeated Perth in the 2022 Australian Volleyball League final, the Steel exacted some revenge in round two of this year’s competition however true retribution could only be gained by reversing the result in this year’s decider.
Perth started the match looking to do just that, streaking to an 8-1 lead before a long serve kickstarted an arm wrestle midway through the set. The Pirates claimed eight of the next 11 points to close the margin to two at 11-9.
Momentum swung back Perth’s way and they led 15-10 when the Pirates went all out on a mission to save the set by calling a powerplay. While they won the first point, the Steel claimed the next two before a lethal finish from skipper Shelby Maher rounded out the opener.
The second set started in much more even fashion, however Perth managed to open up a 10-5 lead when they used their first powerplay. The Steel claimed double points on two of the next three points to open up a commanding eight-point lead, eventually going on to claim the set 18-9.
It was the Pirates who gained the upper hand early in the third set, however Perth clawed their way back to even it up at 10-all before both sides called powerplays with Queensland up 11-10.
The Pirates won two of the next three points to lead 15-12, and while the Steel were able to save one set point, a vicious Rebecca Ingram closed the set out 18-16.
The fourth set was one for the ages with neither side letting the other out of their sights: when Queensland opened up a 7-4 lead, Perth evened up 7-all. The Pirates called a powerplay at 11-7, and after Perth countered with one of their own is was locked up again at 13-all. Back-back points for Queensland were matched by Perth and when they traded the next two points, a set or match point was on the line at 16-all.
Caitlin Whincup buried a ball into the floor to set up match point for Perth and when Tessa Browne capped a stellar performance with a pinpoint block, the Steel bench victoriously stormed the floor.
Captain Shelby Maher said the experience of going down in five sets in last year’s AVL final made the title victory all the more special.
“I think it just means a lot more now,” she said. “The resilience of all the girls to come back, to train harder and work harder is pretty amazing. We knew what it felt like last year and there was no way it was going to happen again.
“I’m so proud of the girls, so proud of the team, so proud of the squad. This was a long time coming and I’m just so happy.”
WOMEN’S BRONZE MEDAL MATCH
Melbourne Vipers v Adelaide Storm 3:1 (18-14, 13-18, 18-6, 18-15)
The Vipers and Storm hadn’t met since the opening week of the competition when Melbourne scored a 4:1 win, however no set on that occasion was won by more than five points indicating a close fixture was on the cards.
It was Adelaide who took command in the opening set, leading 13-9 before the Vipers turned the tables by winning seven of the next eight points. After narrowing the gap to two, Melbourne employed their first powerplay and won two of the next three rallies to take a 15-14 lead. They then won the next three points in a row to take the set 18-14.
The Storm edged ahead early in the second set and took their powerplay up 8-6 but were only able to win one of the next three points to hold a 10-8 lead. However they then proceeded to win five of the next six points to open up a commanding lead which they held through to 18-13 to even the match up 1:1.
The Vipers came out firing in the third, stringing together one of the most dominant stretches of the entire tournament by racing to 12-0 lead. While the two sides went point-for-point to the end of the set, the Vipers maintained to advantage to take it 18-6.
Adelaide needed to arrest the momentum to stay in the match and they did just that, going ahead 9-5 and calling their powerplay. The Vipers did so immediately after as well, and the Storm managed to have the better of it, widening the margin to five.
However that stung the Vipers into action, and they dominated the next five minutes, winning nine of the next 10 points to claim the set, match and the bronze medal for the second straight year.
Melbourne captain Rochelle Sison-Lim was happy with how her team played throughout the season, and believes the Vipers have the squad to have continued success.
“I’m really proud of the team, really proud of the coaching staff and Volleyball Victoria,” she said. “I think we have really good depth as a team, from quite experienced players to the young ones as well, so I’m really excited for the next years to come.”