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.”

STRONG SQUAD NAMED FOR BENDIGO GRAND PRIX

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WINZER NAMES STRONG SQUAD FOR GRAND PRIX 

Six Victorians, including home-grown volleyball star Karley Hynes, have been named in a 14-player Australian squad to compete at the upcoming Women’s Volleyball Grand Prix in Bendigo in June.

The HelloWorld Volleyroos will take on Sydney Olympic gold medallists Cuba, Colombia and Croatia in the prestigious event from June 3 until June 5.

The team will be captained by Victoria’s Shae Sloane, the sister of AFL star Rory, and is dominated by Victorian players.

24-year-old Hynes, who was raised in Maiden Gully and spent her teenage years in Bendigo, has already represented Australia in netball and beach volleyball, and has been a member of the Australian indoor team since 2014.

Australian coach Shannon Winzer said the squad will give a strong showing in Bendigo.

“This year's Grand Prix team is a good mix of experience and fresh young talent,” Winzer said.

“I think the team is very exciting because they have an amazing work ethic and the competitive drive we're looking for heading into international competition.

“Every time we get together the team improves, and this year we have a good lead up to round one with not only a full training schedule but practice matches against University of New Mexico, New Zealand and Croatia, so we anticipate the team will peak at the right time.”

The full squad for Bendigo is;

  • Shae Sloane – setter – (VIC) - Captain
  • Sophie Paine – setter – (VIC)
  • Karley Hynes – pass hitter – (VIC)
  • Jaimee-Lee Morrow – pass hitter – (VIC)
  • Rebecca Reeves – pass hitter – (SA)
  • Hannah Martin – pass hitter – (VIC)
  • Jen Sadler – opposite – (WA)
  • Caitlin Bettenay – pass hitter – (QLD)
  • Jessica Croucher – pass hitter – (QLD) (Bendigo only)
  • Sophie Godfrey – middle – (WA)
  • Beth Carey – middle – (SA)
  • Rhiannon Watt – middle – (VIC)
  • Alice De Innocentiis – libero – (NSW)
  • Danusia Sipa-Borgeaud – libero – (ACT)

Head Coach: Shannon Winzer

Assistant 1: Lauren Bertolacci

Assistant 2: Jenny Becker (Bendigo only)

Team Manager: Chau Le

Physiotherapist: Henry Tram

Head of Delegation/Mentor Coach:  Russ Borgeaud (Bendigo only)

The squad, minus back-up libero Sipa-Borgeaud and pass hitter Croucher, will head to Colombia the following weekend for the second leg of the World Grand Prix circuit.

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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