Italy too strong for Australia in Adelaide


Italy proved too strong for Australia again on Saturday, winning their second World League volleyball match of the weekend 3-1 in Adelaide.

It was a disappointing start to Australia’s first ever Group One World League campaign, with the team heading to Brazil next week to take on the top ranked team in the world, before a return meeting with Italy in Europe.

“Technically it was a big improvement,” Australian coach Roberto Santilli said.

“The level of the game was much better than yesterday. I can say I'm happy with the performance today, but of course I can't say I'm happy with the result.

“We have to improve a lot of things, especially the block and defence.”

Australia eliminated a lot of the mistakes which had cost them dearly on the opening night, but were unable to put any pressure on the inexperienced Italians in the opening two sets.

When the Volleyroos finally did manage to open up a break in the third set it was to prove decisive, with the more than 3000 spectators roaring the home team back into the match.

The final set was an even tussle, but Australia once again was unable to apply the pressure when it needed to.

One of the highlights for the Australians was the form of Sam Walker, who got a rare chance for a full match and impressed with his all round game.

“We're still not hitting our highest level yet, and we're still competitive,” captain Tom Edgar said.

“It's a bit difficult to stomach because we have a lot of important games this year, and we have to learn to deal with this. We need to know when to turn it up.”

Edgar was the dominant player in the match, finishing with 26 points in Australia’s 20-25, 21-25, 25-23, 23-25 loss.

Italian coach Mauro Berruto said to pick up two wins on the road with an inexperienced team is a dream start to this year’s World League campaign.

“We came here with a very young team, many players wearing the shirt for the first time,” he said.

“It was important for us to win these matches, but today we weren't so consistent.”

Australia lose World League opener to Italy


Australia’s opening match of the 2015 World Volleyball League has not gone to plan, with the Volleyroos beaten 3-1 by Italy in Adelaide.

The home side believed during the week that they had their best chance ever of beating the former world number one, especially with so many experienced players missing.

But a high error count proved costly for the Volleyroos, losing 25-19, 22-25, 25-21, 25-20 in front of nearly 5000 fans at Adelaide Arena.

“It wasn't the perfect game, the first game is always difficult,” Australian coach Roberto Santilli said.

“We expect to play with less mistakes, which is exactly what Italy did. We missed some easy situations which we have to manage, but you can see today the difference between the two teams is not much.”

Australia once again relied heavily on captain Tom Edgar, but he received valuable support from Paul Sanderson in attack and the blocking of Travis Passier.

“I'm happy overall with the team, but a little bit disappointed with my performance,” Edgar said.

“We lost a bit of concentration and fell back a bit, but we fought back and made it hard for the Italians. I think when we're playing our best volleyball we can definitely match it against Italy.”

In some good news for Australia, they won their first ever World League set against Italy when they took the second 25-22.

Australia will get a chance to level the series when they meet Italy again at Adelaide Arena on Saturday afternoon.

Australia's Italian ready to take on Italy


Australian volleyball coach Roberto Santilli believes the Volleyroos have a great opportunity to beat Italy in the opening round of the World League in Adelaide this weekend.

He should know, given his long association with volleyball in Italy, and the knowledge he has built up on the Australians since taking over as coach at the start of this year.

“Of course I’m excited,” Santilli said.

“This is the start of a new adventure with Australia, and because the team and the players feel that the moment is coming.

“And of course we are playing against Italy, so of course I should be excited, 100 per cent.”

Italy arrived in Australia without several of their big name players, but Santilli said they will still be very hard to beat.

“Of course we can beat them, that is what I’ve been saying to the players,” he said.

We have to be aggressive, because this is a young team and we have nothing to lose. I have the feeling that the guys understand this, so we are ready for a big battle against Italy.”

One of Santilli’s first actions as coach was to name 211cm star player, Tom Edgar, as captain, replacing Aidan Zingel who was unavailable.

The concern was that the captaincy might prove a distraction for Edgar, easily Australia’s most prolific points scorer and an intimidating presence for opposing teams.

But Santilli is confident the big Queenslander can cope.

“He can be the leader of this team, and this is what we expect from him,” Santilli said.

“Inside of the court he is the most important attacker, and he’s also the only player in this team who plays in a professional league.

“Of course we have to balance the expectation that we have on him, and also balance what he can produce for the team.

“I’ve spent some time with him and he is really happy to be a leader for the young guys. I think he will be one of the keys, one of the new sensations that this kind of team can give us.”

Australia has played Italy five times in World League, but has never taken a set off the former World number ones.

But they did lead Italy 2-0 before losing 2-3 at the London Olympics, and Italy has since tumbled to fourth in the world, compared to Australia’s 13th.

Australia takes on Italy on Friday and Saturday at Adelaide Arena, before heading to Brazil to take on the world number ones the following weekend.

Having reaped two qualification victories on Wednesday to make the 32-team Main Draw, the 31st-seeded Artacho/Laird continued their winning momentum by defeating Germany’s second seeds Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst 2-0 (21-17, 21-19) in the morning and Czech Republic’s 15th seeds Kristyna Kolocova/Marketa Slukova 2-0 (21-16, 24-22) in the afternoon.

“Cool! It feels pretty unbelievable! Our first season, our first Grand Slam, come as qualifiers, it feels pretty unreal,” said Artacho.

The second set of the second round match between Artacho/Laird and Kolocova/Slukova was hotly contested and the Australians withstood two set points to level it at 20-all thanks to a Artacho block against Kolocova. After Artacho beat off the fourth set point of the Czech Republic with another block, an error of Slukova during a long rally awarded Artacho/Laird their first match point and Artacho converted on it with an accurate drop shot.

“It feels pretty unreal, but we came back in the second set. We just stuck together for every point and believed in each other and we can do it,” Artacho added. “I think that the most important thing is to believe in ourselves and say: we can do it, it's possible.”

Laird attributed the surprising wins to their concentration. “It’s our first Grand Slam and it's all a bit overwhelming. So breaking everything down, making it a lit bit smaller, a little bit simpler,” she said. “In the game just play our ball. Last point doesn't matter, the next point doesn't matter, and it’s all about what's happening in that one moment.”

Having secured their berth in the 24-team knock-out stage, Artacho/Laird now put their eyes on the last match and the top place of the pool.

“We always go one step at a time, even breaking the game down, thinking nothing, just one game at a time has helped us come this far,” Artacho said. “We still haven’t finish pool match, so our next goal is to finish atop of our pool. Being that our last game today, we can now switch off, relax and get ready for tomorrow's games.”

Home favorites Xue/Xia also had a fine start on Thursday as they swept Kazakhstan’s Tatyana Mashkova/Irina Tsimbalova 2-0 (21-17, 21-11) before beating Ana Gallay and Georgina Klug of Argentina 2-0 (21-19, 21-19).

“We were satisfied with our play today,“ said Xue, who paired with Xia to take the bronze medal at last week’s season-opening Fuzhou Open. “My partner is very young and we have a lot to improve together, so every match is a good test and challenge for us.“

It’s also the first Grand Slam event for the newly formed Chinese combination and they vowed to do as best as they. “It’s important for us to get more points and this Grand Slam is a great opportunity, we’ll do the best we can,“ Xue added.

Other top teams winning two matches in a row include Walsh/Ross of the United States, Juliana/Antonelli, Talita Antunes/Taiana Lima, Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas De Freitas from Brazil and Germany’s Karla Borger/Britta Buthe, Katrin Holtwick/Ilka Semmler.

Thirty-two teams are playing a single round robin in eight groups with top three finishers from each group to advance to the 24-team knockout stage.

The 2014 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour calendar features a record purse of US$10.2 million with a season that extends from late April to mid-December competing at 21 venues in 18 countries. This year’s FIVB World Tour includes a record 10 FIVB Grand Slam events, the inaugural Grand Slam Finale and 11 FIVB Open Tournaments throughout the world, helping expand the door for development of the sport even further.

The 10 FIVB Grand Slam competitions, all double-gender, have eight with $800,000 in total purses while both The Hague, Netherlands and the Long Beach, Calif., USA event will have $1 million each in prize money, the most in FIVB Grand Slam history.





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