AVL Round 3 Weekend Wrap

AVL Round 3 Weekend Wrap

QLD Pirates vs WA Steel

Women’s Game 1: QLD 0:3 WA (20-25, 16-25, 15:-25)
Women’s Game 2: QLD 0:3 WA (17-25, 20-25, 20-25)

With the Volleyball Queensland Junior Schools Cup (yr 7 & 8) being played this weekend, the Pirates elected to host this round against the WA Steel also on the Gold Coast so players from the 224 teams competing could see the Australian Volleyball League first-hand.

Clearly, the WA Steel Women’s came to play and put on a high quality show across Saturday and Sunday, winning both games in straight sets.

Led strongly by captain Shelby Maher, the Steel opened a five-point lead in the firsts set, and never let the gap get smaller than five points across the whole weekend. Stand-out performances came from Steel young-gun Caitlin Whincup, providing a real threat and showing maturity beyond her years, alongside blocker Tessa Browne, who became an impenetrable wall against the Pirates’ attack.

“After last weekend, when we managed to get a win in Canberra against the Heat, we came into round 3 with a little more confidence,” WA Steel Head Coach Pauline Manser said. “The girls held their bottom end and kept working together to get a really strong team performance.

“Tessa Browne did a really good job of blocking today,” Manser said after Sunday’s game. “She figured it out late in the game last night, but really switched it on today.”

Men’s Game 1: QLD 3 – 1 WA (25:22 21:25; 25:17, 25:21)
Men’s Game 2: QLD 3 – 2 WA (23:25; 25:15; 12:25, 25:21; 15:13)

Spurred on by the vocal QLD Schools Cup crowd, the Men’s QLD Pirates won back-to-back games against WA Steel.

In contrast to the Women’s team, the Men’s Pirates came out of the gate firing on all cylinders on Saturday with a win against WA in the first set. However WA clawed their way back in the second set, mounting their own assault against Queensland’s defensive line to even the score. A strong and commanding lead at the start of the third set allowed QLD coach Bryce Kelly to substitute on Luke Di Trapani, Jack McIntosh and Konna Dingwall, all making their AVL debuts on home soil. With the score tied at 18:18 and enigmatic Captain Kieran Ivers serving, the Pirates reeled off five straight points to get the advantage they needed to win the match 3 sets to 1.

Sunday’s match was another close affair, going down to the wire across five sets. Set 1 had the teams going toe-to-toe. Pirates setter Ewan Thiele directed his team’s offence expertly, regularly giving his hitters just one blocker to face. However, it seemed that whatever the Pirates could do, the Steel could match. In the end it was one key block from the Steel that split the teams, Steel winning 25:23.

Whatever Pirates’ Head Coach Bryce Kelly said in the break must have worked, with QLD racing to a 2:7 lead in the second set to claim it 25:15. However the Steel responded in a complete momentum switch, taking the third 25:12 with Daniel Piggot leading the way. The teams stood toe-to-toe, trading points to 14:14 in the fourth, before a monster block from VolleyRoo Steve McDonald and an ace off the top of the net from Jonah Pierce swung things the Pirates’ way, taking it 25:21.

So to a 5th and deciding set. Unfortunately for Pirates, talismanic setter Ewan Thiele’s sweat on the ball caused a handling error and gave the Steel the early advantage with a 5:2 lead. On the back of some key blocks by McDonald the Pirates clawed their way back to 9:9. At 10:10 Thiele atoned for his earlier error by serving an ace, giving his team the lead for the first time in the set. An incredible spike from Pittorino finally gave the win to the Pirates 15:13.

Pirates Head Coach Bryce Kelly, said the team had some impressive performances over the weekend, but still have more to give.

“We just can’t seem to get the job done in the earlier sets. Yesterday we stayed in third  gear for the whole match, today we got to fourth, but we probably have two gears to go at least. Today was a game of pressure and we handled it pretty well in the fifth after being down 2:5,” he said.

“We have the bye next week so we will work on our consistency and our serving. We used all 14 players on our list over the weekend and all had a positive impact each time they took the court. Without the 14 guys I think we would really have struggled.”

Story courtesy of Volleyball Australia.