Volleyroos Place 8th at Women’s Asian Championships
The Australian Women’s Volleyroos are returning from the 22nd Asian Senior Women’s Volleyball Championship with their best result in more than a decade.
The Volleyroos finished the tournament in eighth place and were unlucky not to finish as high as fifth after two nail-biting five-set defeats on the final two days of competition.
Australia faced a formidable task when competition started in Nakhon Ratchasima, facing two-time champions Thailand, who haven’t finished outside the top four since 2005.
The Volleyroos showed glimpses of their best but went down to a team which would eventually go through the competition undefeated on their way to the title.
The all-important match against Mongolia the following day got the Volleyroos campaign back on track, with a 3:0 victory ensuring a place in the top eight.
Losses to Vietnam and Korea in the next phase pushed Australia into the 5th-8th classification and a showdown with Kazakhstan, a nation which finished fifth in 2019.
After dropping the first set, the Volleyroos hit some of their best form to not only level the encounter, but take a 2:1 lead going into the fourth set.
The Kazakhs hit back to force a decider, eventually winning 15-12 to push Australia into the seventh place playoff against India.
In a role reversal from the previous match, Australia won the first set before dropping the next two, but levelled it up 2:2 in the fourth. India were able to get a lead and hang on to it in the fifth, winning it 15:10 to land Australia in eighth place.
The last time Australia finished as high as eighth was in 2007, when the tournament was also hosted in Nakhon Ratchasima.
Acting head coach Nicole Hannan said the tour, which included a fifth place finish at the VTV Cup in Vietnam prior to the Asian Championships, has been an enormous opportunity for growth for the team.
“We have competed against the top teams in Asia and some of the top teams in the world,” said Hannan. “We have come away with some great wins, some tough losses, and one of the most successful Asian Championships results for an Australian women’s team in over 20 years.
“This tour has been challenging due to some injuries and unforeseen adversity, but the culture of the team has shone through on and off the court. This team is a privilege and a pleasure to coach and I am extremely proud of what we have achieved.”
Beth Carey returned to the Volleyroos for the first time in three years and said it was a privilege to represent the country but also to play with a group of passionate and determined volleyballers.
“The two competitions had both ups and downs with several injuries in the mix but I am proud of the team for showing grit and support for each other to the last point,” she said. “The potential within this group of women is immense.
“We fought hard against some highly ranked teams and have lessons to take with us – improvements as well as a greater understanding of our strengths.”
Australian opposite Emma Burton echoed Carey’s thoughts, emphasising how the squad had come together on and off the court.
“The trip as a whole was great to be able spend so much time together as a team, and to be able to see the growth in not only the team but also in individuals has been crucial,” said Burton.
“It was an awesome experience overall and the culture we’ve built and continue to grow for the future is amazing.”
Libero Emily Heintzelman said the team could hold their heads high after the tournament.
“Our matches against Kazakhstan and India were intense, going for five close sets each,” she said.
“Our strengths in strong blocks, resilience, and adaptability to our opponents’ strategies were evident, and our improved defensive play and solid passing contributed to what I think was an impressive journey.
“Despite finishing eighth overall, I think we can rightfully feel proud of our achievements.”
The squad will now disperse around the globe, with some players returning to clubs in Europe or American colleges. Mikaela Stevens, (NSW Phoenix), Emma Burton (Queensland Pirates), Laura Reeks (NSW Phoenix), Stef Weiler (Adelaide Storm) and Beth Carey (Adelaide Storm) will return home to take part in the closing weeks of the Scape Australian Volleyball Super League.
22nd AVC Asian Senior Women’s Volleyball Championships
Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand
30 August-6 September
Pool A – Thailand d Australia 3:0 (25-14, 25-16, 25-22)
Pool A – Australia d Mongolia 3:0 (25-16, 26-24, 25-14)
Top 8 Pool E – Vietnam d Australia 3:0 (25-15, 25-15, 25-21)
Top 8 Pool E – Korea d Australia 3:0 (26-24, 25-13, 25-14)
5th-8th Classification – Kazakhstan d Australia 3:2 (25-16, 21-25, 19-25, 25-15, 15-12)
7th Place Playoff – India d Australia 3:2 (21-25, 28-26, 25-23, 20-25, 15-10)
9th Chinese Taipei
11th Hong Kong, China