Steel claim first-ever men’s national title

Steel claim first-ever men’s national title

Perth Steel may have finished the regular season in second place on the competition ladder, but a near-flawless performance in Bendigo this weekend saw them claim the 2023 Scape Australian Volleyball Super League men’s final.

A 3:1 victory over Adelaide Storm in today’s decider completed an undefeated season where they won seven from seven matches, claiming Perth’s first ever national title.

Earlier in the day, Melbourne denied Canberra a medal in their title defence, taking the third place playoff in straight sets.

Perth Steel d Adelaide Storm 3:1 (11-18, 18-16, 19-17, 18-16)

After an epic encounter eight days ago, it was unsurprising the first five minutes of the final saw both sides trading heavy blows. When each team enacted a powerplay, it was Adelaide who gained a three-point advantage at 13-10. After that they were never headed on the way to an 18-11 first set win.

They kept that momentum after the break winning seven of the first eight points of the second set. When Perth won three on the trot, the Storm used a powerplay and finished it with an 11-6 lead.

Adelaide maintained that advantage through to 14-9 when the Steel went all out by using a powerplay of their own and it proved to be a masterstroke. Perth won all three of the powerplay points to take an unlikely 15-14 lead, and although Adelaide evened it up at 16-all, the Steel took the next two points to even up the match.

The Storm gained the early advantage again in the third set and used their final powerplay with a 10–6 lead. After sharing the next two points, Perth called their last powerplay as well. By the time both sides had exhausted all of their double point opportunities, Adelaide held a two-point advantage, but soon after the set was locked up 13-all.

Both sides continued to trade rallies until Adelaide earned the first set point. Perth were not only able to defuse the next rally, they won three points straight to gain a 2:1 lead.

Adelaide opened up a 7-4 lead in the fourth, but after Perth evened it up at 7-7, neither side could gain more than a one-point advantage until Perth went ahead 15-13. Adelaide quickly squared the ledger but the Steel went bang-bang to earn two Championship Points.

While Adelaide were able to save the first, the next serve sailed long and the men completed an undefeated season to turn 2022 bronze into 2023 gold.

“Our whole season has been about 12 in the team, not six on the court,” said Perth coach Mark Petersen. “It’s a combination of the whole pre-season and in every game we’ve built on it. We had belief in ourselves and just to see it in action is great.

“It’s about having confidence in your game and knowing that if you stay patient, stick to what you know; don’t have to do anything extra.

“We talked about ‘our game’ winning this competition and the more we play our game the more we’ll win points and I think it just paid off in the end.”

Melbourne Vipers v Canberra Heat 3:1 (21-19, 18-8, 18-4)

Melbourne came into the third place playoff with the benefit of a come-from-behind victory over Canberra in round two, however the Heat were keen to score a medal following their victory in 2022.

The closeness of their previous encounter looked like playing out early on as the two sides traded set points before the Vipers eventually prevailed 21-19.

From then on it was largely one way traffic.

The Vipers worked their way to a 10-4 advantage in the second set with Paul Sanderson’s huge serving game wreaking havoc. They took the powerplay a point later and edged further ahead to 14-6, going on to win the set 18-8.

With nothing to lose, the Heat took an early powerplay in the third set while trailing 0-2, however Melbourne were ruthless, winning the next seven points before Canberra could get on the board.

The Vipers took the powerplay and maintained the eight point advantage to lead 11-3, however Canberra could manage just one more point as Melbourne streaked away to win the set 18-4 – the biggest set margin in the men’s competition this season – and claim the bronze medal.

Vipers captain Nick Boesten said his team was able to overcome the disappointment of Saturday’s semi-final loss to put in a dominant performance today.

“We managed to focus today and just really work on the target – so good to win the rose gold,” he said. “We just had to really focus and channel our emotions for today. We still had a mission to complete, play really clean volleyball, block defence and I’m really glad we got there in the end.”

Having missed out on the finals series in 2022, Boesten emphasised how much of an improvement the Vipers have made in the last 12 months.

“It was really good considering where we finished last year, it was really good to at least medal this year,” he said. “I was really proud of the boys and proud of the program in general.”

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