Reigning champions Melbourne Vipers looking to defend their 2019 women’s AVL title as men’s squad builds for the future
Coming out of the two-year-long COVID-19 break, the main focus for the Melbourne Vipers was to get their players back to a peak level of competitiveness and team cohesion this season.
Expectations were high as Melbourne finally presented elite volleyball back to their fans, with the aspiration of building on the previous team success. The women’s team started the season keen to defend their 2019 AVL National title, while the men’s team were looking to hopefully improve on their bronze medal finish. With such goals in mind, the Vipers approached their home debut in round two with a sense of excitement and pressure to perform on their home ground. Over that weekend, tough competition from South Australia gave the Vipers clear signs of how the season would unfold.
The women’s team were thrilled to take out a win against the Storm, on the way to a fantastic 9-game winning streak which was only interrupted by the NSW Phoenix in round six.
On the other hand, the men lost both games to the Storm to start their season 0-4, after a tough debut in WA where former Viper Jose Martinez really took it out to his old team. All in all the men’s Vipers only managed to claim one victory in their first 10 matches of the 2022 AVL season, despite rookie Pass hitter / Opposite Changmin “Air Chang” Lee showing great promise and turning out to be a positive note for the team. Lee has been performing well throughout the season and his athleticism and dynamic style of play on the court have been a real asset to the Vipers.
The mood in the Women Vipers’ camp could not be more different, as they head into the last weekend of the regular season as the team to beat in the women’s AVL. Women’s Volleyroos captain Kell Lean’s announcement that she will be retiring from professional sport at the end of the season doesn’t seem to have affected the quality of the Vipers’ game at all. In fact, it might have focused their efforts even more, as Lean and former Volleyroos middle blocker Monique Stojanovic enjoyed one last season playing together after years of club, AVL and National Team competition.
All-round utility player Jemma Stokes has also been vital to the team’s success this year. She’s a young athlete with USA College experience and brings a level of competitiveness to the game that well complements the Vipers’ roster, which also featured international new talent in American Molly Richardson.
The Vipers will play their last AVL regular season matches at home in round 7. The men’s team will have an opportunity to salute their fan base, while the women’s squad will fine-tune their preparation as they look forward to competing again for the title in the Gold Coast. Their last AVL success was three years ago and although a lot has changed since then, captain Kelly Lean is looking forward to the opportunity to claim back-to-back AVL titles to close out her amazing career.