Australia pulls of stunning last-gasp win to avoid relegation

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AUSTRALIA AVOID RELEGATION WITH THRILLING FIVE-SET WIN

The Australian men's volleyball team has avoided relegation from the prestigious Group One of World League with a thrilling five-set win against world number eight, Serbia, in Melbourne.

The Australians went into the match knowing anything short of a win would see them drop back to Group Two of World League next year.

“Everyone really stood up today, it was a massive game for our team, a massive win we can take forward for the rest of the year,” captain Tom Edgar said.

A relieved coach, Roberto Santilli, said the Australians played well when it mattered.

“It was like a marathon for us, the first time we played five sets,” he said.

“Of course it wasn’t easy, but we played much better than yesterday, and Serbia was one step back from the way they played yesterday.

“It was a very emotional match for us. We deserve to be in Group One.”

The Volleyroos had lost all three matches against Serbia this year, the latest a 3-1 loss in Melbourne on Saturday night.

They woke to the news on Sunday morning that Russia had recorded a shock 3-1 win over Iran, putting Australia into the relegation position.

The Volleyroos took the opening set on Sunday 25-22, but then Serbia fought back to take the second 25-22.

The Australian game fell apart in the third set, with several unforced errors and disputed calls raising the pressure level.

Australian coach Roberto Santilli received a yellow card, and then a red card, which cost his team a point as he continued to remonstrate with officials.

A distracted and flustered Australia could not get back into the set, losing 25-13 - their worst set score line of this year’s World League.

But the young Australian team regrouped and returned to their starting formation for the fourth set, and led by captain Tom Edgar, Paul Sanderson and Jacob Guymer, they were able to regain control.

They won the fourth set 25-22, and then held their nerve in front of a full house to take the final set 15-12, and the match 3-2.

Edgar said the result sends a message to critics who questioned whether Australia belonged in Group One.

“We woke up this morning to an insult, we woke up to an insult from the Iranian captain,” he said.

“We’ve always stayed professional in our dealings with every other teams, so it’s very disappointing to hear other teams talk openly that Russia should be in the top tier and not us.

“To be honest this win is even more important in that regard, it’s only fuelling the fire and the boys are going to be revved up when we go to Tehran for the Asian Championships.

“Iran better watch out.”

The result is reminiscent of the Volleyroos five-set win against France 12 months ago, which earned them promotion to Group One. 

Heat takes its toll on Volleyroos in Algeria

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AUSTRALIA FIGHTS HARD IN HEAT OF ALGERIA

Australian women’s volleyball coach, Mark Barnard, believes fatigue and extreme heat has contributed to his team’s 3-0 loss to Kenya in the women’s Grand Prix in Algeria this morning.

The Australians had to back up after a tough five-set loss to Algeria which finished after midnight, and after a close first set faded to lose in straight sets 25-20, 25-16, 25-15.

“We hung with them very well in the first set, it’s just that after that 1am finish against Algeria last night they were a little bit tired,” Barnard said.

“We have to get over that, that’s the way it is. I thought we started with good energy but then wore a bit.

“It was unbelievably hot in there, that was a factor for us – something we have to control better because we play at the same time against Mexico tomorrow.”

The Australians are still chasing their first Grand Prix win, and face their best chance when they take on Mexico early Monday morning, AEST.

Mexico posted its first Grand Prix win, against Algeria, in an energy-sapping five set clash this morning.

Australian captain, Shae Sloane, said her team will appreciate playing the shorter Mexican side after finding the tall Kenyans a challenge.

“They were just able to terminate a lot of ball, unfortunately for us,” she said.

“We were serving well and putting pressure on them, but they are tall and were getting up and were able to hit the ball really hard and get it in.”

Georgina Rowe was the leading point scorer for Australia, with seven, while Mercy Moim finished with 19 points for Kenya.

The Australian team will head straight home to Canberra after Monday’s match, to prepare for next weekend’s Grand Prix finals at the AIS.

It’s expected Colombia, Peru and three-time Olympic champions, Cuba, will all qualify for the finals.

The equation is simple: Volleyroos must win on Sunday

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TIME FOR THE VOLLEYROOS TO STEP UP, SAYS CAPTAIN EDGAR

Australian volleyball captain Tom Edgar called for his team to be more critical of its performances after it lost 3-1 to Serbia in their World League match in Melbourne.

Australia needed a win against the world number eight team to guarantee it stays in group one of World League next year, but could not overcome a determined but inexperienced Serbia.

The Australians have one last chance to secure their place in world volleyball’s top league next year, after Russia posted a shock 3-1 win over Iran in Tehran overnight.

It was Russia’s first win in World League this year, and puts them ahead of Australia, with the bottom team relegated to group two next year.

The Volleyroos were at their best in a gripping third set against Serbia, but having worked hard to get back into the match, gave up the fourth set and the match with a string of unforced errors, 22-25, 21-25, 31-29, 18-25.

“I’m disappointed,” Edgar said.

“To be honest I’m a little bit lost for words. We have to find something more within ourselves; it’s not about what opponent we’re playing.

“Serbia did play well in patches, but we just got in a rut where we were dropping points and then dropping more points and then letting them have a run.”

Edgar says his team needs to be start playing better if it is to challenge the best teams in the world.

“We really have to learn quickly how to kill a team. I thought we had a lot of opportunities in this game,” he said.

“It’s getting to the stage where we need to be a little bit more critical of ourselves and of each other, and make sure we’re still pushing.

“Not in a negative way, but make sure we’re building and there’s some constructive criticism going on because we need to make the next step, not hover between two levels.”

Coach Roberto Santilli was frustrated Serbia was able to win several points from a move his team had practiced for.

“We were prepared for the tip, but sometimes we tried to do something which we are not able to do,” he said.

“We prepared everything, but we didn’t do well enough. That is why I’m disappointed because we can lose against a team like this, but you should not lose when you are prepared for something.”

Edgar finished as the leading point scorer for Australia with 28 points, including a dominant third set where he led his team back into the match.

Australia takes on Serbia again in its final match of the 2015 World League in Melbourne on Sunday afternoon.

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