Good signs for Volleyroos despite loss to Croatia

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GOOD SIGNS FOR VOLLEYROOS DESPITE 3-1 LOSS TO CROATIA

Australian women’s volleyball coach Shannon Winzer encouraged her team to continue being aggressive after its 3-1 loss to Croatia in a warm-up match in Dandenong on Friday night.

Winzer said there was plenty to be excited about one week out from the World Grand Prix in Bendigo.

“It was a really good start,” Winzer said.

“We said we were always going to play aggressive, and when we did that we were successful. When we went back to playing safe, we struggled, so that’s good.”

The highlight of the night was Australia’s incredible comeback in the third set, when the helloworld Volleyroos saved five match points to take the set 26-24.

“It’s definitely a work in progress, but this was a great starting point. Our passing struggled a bit in all the sets. But the best thing was we were able to come back against a top side.

“We kept fighting and never gave up.”

Australia will take on Croatia, Cuba and Colombia at next week’s Grand Prix, and captain Shae Sloane said

“It’s a very exciting team, it’s a very young and aggressive team,’ Sloane said.

“We want to win a World Grand Prix game and we want to stay competitive. We’ve got a lot to learn from tonight’s game. But last year we struggled to adjust quickly, I think we’ve managed to get that this year.”

Croatia beat Australia 3-1 (25-20, 25-16, 24-26, 25-19)

AUSTRALIA READY FOR FINAL TILT AT RIO

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AUSTRALIA READY FOR FINAL TILT AT RIO

By any measure Australian volleyballer Paul Carroll has had a pretty satisfying past 12 months.

He’s become a dad for the first time, reached the significant milestone of turning 30, and his Berlin Volleyball Club, his adopted home for the best part of the past decade, has swept all before them both domestically and throughout Europe.

But there’s one part of the jigsaw that is still missing – a ticket to the 2016 Olympic Games. While several of his teammates played in London four years ago, Carroll missed out.

This time round he’s probably the most determined player on the team.

This weekend Carroll and his helloworld Volleyroos teammates begin the final trek to Rio, an Asian qualifying tournament in Tokyo that has also drawn world heavyweights like Poland and France.

Australia’s task is straight forward; finish as the best Asian team, and the ticket is theirs.

It may be straight forward, but it’s not simple. Iran is there, so are China and Japan. Four tickets are up for grabs, and at least one has to go to one of the Asian teams.

The team has been together for a couple of weeks in Italy preparing. It makes a lot of sense, as nearly the entire Australian squad plays for clubs around Europe.

“Everyone’s pretty amped up. I think we’re pretty confident going into Japan,” Carroll said.

“It’s coming together reasonably quick. We still need to improve to get to the level we want to get to, but we are right on track.

“It’s seven matches in nine days, but we have a team that has guys who can come in off the bench. And we are all in great physical shape.”

While Australia’s form in the past 12 months has lacked consistency, the team has a significant in for this Olympic campaign – former captain, Aidan Zingel.

Zingel sat out last year, but has re-joined the team and Carroll believes he will make a significant difference.

“Zingel is going to be a massive advantage for us,” he said.

“He’s a world class middle with an incredible amount of experience. He’s so constant at such a high level, and such a great role model for the younger middles.

“He’s the kind of player who makes everyone around him a lot better.”

Australia opens its campaign against Iran on Saturday. The result could go a long way towards determining which Asian team will finish on top, but Carroll said the team does not want to focus too much on that game.

“I think the best things for us to do is treat every match the same,” he said.

“If we put too much weight on a single match, and if that match doesn’t go to plan, we have to back up the next day.

“But we did beat Iran comfortably last year, 3-0 in the World Cup.”

Australia’s games will all be shown live on Fox Sports.

VOLLEYROOS MAKE IT 2-0 AGAINST NEW ZEALAND

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 VOLLEYROOS CHALK UP ANOTHER WIN OVER NEW ZEALAND

The Australian women’s volleyball team has beaten New Zealand two-nil in Moe, Victoria, following on from a four-one win the previous day.

The home team won 25-15, 25-21, 25-17, as they continue preparations for next week’s World Grand Prix clash against Croatia, Cuba and Colombia in Bendigo.

“We’re really trying to push an aggressive style of play, and these matches allow us time to find that balance between just how aggressive we can be, and when,” Volleyroos coach, Shannon Winzer, said.

“The NZ series provides us with a chance for further team cohesion and gives us an invaluable opportunity to test different line-ups and see how the team reacts in different situations under pressure.”

The Australian team has undergone several changes since last year’s Grand Prix, including the appointment of Winzer as coach.

Several of the new-look squad have had very little international experience, but Winzer is impressed by their progress.

“They’ve all come together with an understanding of what’s required at this level and what’s expected as a good teammate and a Volleyroo,” she said.

“Already there is a strong sense of team among this group, and while the newer players naturally have a sharp learning curve playing international volleyball, and the speed at which it’s played, so far they have risen to every challenge put before them.

“And I can only expect they will continue to do so.”

The Australians will have one more game against New Zealand on Wednesday, and will then have warm-up matches against Croatia and the University of New Mexico before the Grand Prix.

“I think we’re on track in our preparation for the World Grand Prix, with another 10 days of training and practice matches against quality opponents,” Winzer said.

“The more we play together, the more we are able to become more consistent in our aggressive style of play.”

 

Barnard and everyone associated with the fledgling International team had been impressed with the side’s progress during their first two Grand Prix games.

Sure, they lost to Kazakhstan and the Czech Republic in straight sets, but the Volleyroos showed plenty of the underdog spirit Barnard spoke so openly about in the event lead-up.

On Sunday, it was gone.

“We just did not play very well for probably 70 per cent of the match,” Barnard said.

“There were spurts there, but we were physically outmatched. We made way too many errors. The experience of being resilient, of going through that a lot of times and learning how to get out of it, we haven’t learned that.”

Barnard took the decision to give the players the morning off from training ahead of the Croatia game because he was worried about burn out.

He’s now not sure that was the right call.

“Maybe we should have pushed through it,” he said.

“But in the back of my mind I know they don’t play and train all the time, so it’s very easy to train them into the ground. Part of the intention today was to have them rest. I’m just not sure what the correlation between not doing anything this morning and the result this afternoon.”

The reality is this is a steep learning curve for the Volleyroos, and anyone who follows the sport in Australia knows this is the first step down a long and winding road.

Volleyball Australia President Craig Carracher knows.

“Let’s remember this is off the back of a decade of limited support,” he said after Sunday’s loss.

“This is the start of a rebuilding process, a process to create opportunity for a generation of players and coaches and administrators and officials.

“There are 200 countries playing women’s volleyball, and this was always going to be a long road. But we can’t not start the journey just because we know it’s a long and difficult one.”

Australia has the nucleus of a very good volleyball team, and with several players about to head to overseas leagues, and with several more hoping to follow, there is going to be more consistent exposure to the best.

But there are also a handful of players contemplating retirement. Some are listening to the protests of their own bodies, others are finding it difficult to balance full-time jobs with the commitment needed to play at the top level.

Which will leave enormous holes to fill. All the more reason Australia needs this Grand Prix experience to work.

Judging by the reaction of younger squad members like Nikki Cunningham and Jess Ryder, it’s a good news story so far.

“It’s a whole new level,” Ryder, who made her senior International debut against Kazakhstan on Friday, said.

“I can’t wait for the future years, when I can get on the court more, maybe even start on court.”

The immediate challenge for Australia, now they’ve taken one step back, is to move forward again next weekend in Croatia in week two of the Grand Prix.

 

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