ASIAN CHAMPIONSHIPS SET NEW CHALLENGES FOR VOLLEYROOS

The Australian men’s volleyball team begins its Asian Championships campaign later today determined to confirm their status as one of the powerhouse teams of the region.

Australia goes into the event ranked second behind host nation, Iran, and with a current world ranking of 13.

India will be Australia’s toughest opponent in pool play, with a world ranking of 39, with Qatar (45) and Turkmenistan (141) the other two teams in the group.

A change in the Olympic qualification process has removed some of the pressure on the Volleyroos in Tehran, but coach Roberto Santilli says his team needs to make a statement.

“I’m feeling confident, and I think the team is feeling confident,” Santilli said.

“If you think we have less pressure because of the change in rules, that is not correct. We add pressure to the guys because from the beginning of this preparation we have said we want to go to Tehran for a big result.

“We want to go there with the idea we can be competitive for first place. If we want to build the mentality of the group to fight at high level we have to go there and fight for first place.”

Initially Australia had to finish top three next week to qualify for the Olympic qualification tournament, but with the emphasis now on current Asian rankings, the Volleyroos are already through to the qualifiers.

Australia will be expected to perform strongly in Iran after its first season in the top division of World League.

But Santilli said the experience of playing in the best competition in the world will throw up extra challenges.

“The most difficult game will be the first game (against Qatar), because we come from a different level,” he said.

“World League is the best volleyball you can play, so we have to adjust to a new rhythm and style.”

Australia will welcome back experienced opposite, Paul Carroll, after a knee injury which sidelined him from the World League campaign.

“He is so important, absolutely important,” Santilli said.

“He’s physically okay, and with his return the level of the competition in the team lifts. And he is an experienced player, and this is a young group of players so absolutely, he is a very important player for us.”

The Volleyroos take on Qater late Friday night, followed by Turkmenistan on Saturday evening and India on Sunday night.

BARNARD CALLS FOR MORE SUPPORT TO HELP ACHIEVE OLYMPIC DREAM

The Australian women’s volleyball team has finished the 2015 Grand Prix series without a win, with head coach Mark Barnard pleading for more support for the sport to succeed.

The Australians were unable to finish with a win in the finals series in Canberra, the first time the team has played in Australia since the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

The Volleyroos lost the bronze medal playoff to Colombia, 3-0 (25-12, 25-22, 25-16) while Kenya won the gold medal and promotion to Group 2 in 2016 with a shock 21-25, 25-17, 25-22, 25-23 win over Peru.

Barnard said Australia was only able to compete in this year’s Grand Prix because of the generous support of backers like Hancock Prospecting, and for the team to make Tokyo in 2020 more help would be needed.

“We cannot do it under the current way that things are done,” he said.

“You can’t just play two tournaments a year, train for two weekends and then go to Tokyo. It’s unrealistic.”

While the Australian men’s indoor team, and the men’s and women’s beach teams, all get Government funding, there is no money for the women’s program because it is not considered a realistic medal prospect in the short term.

But Australia has jumped from a world ranking of 100 to 46 in under a year, and Barnard believes the team will continue to improve if the conditions are right.

“If the situation changes, and we have a place where the players can train regularly, get strength and conditioning, then Tokyo becomes a realistic goal,” he said.

“If it stays like this, then 2024 should be more of a consideration. We have to do some things tomorrow, realistically, if we are going to get there.”

Sunday’s match against Colombia also signaled the end of the career of setter Lauren Bertolacci, who is about to take up a role as coach of a professional men’s team in Switzerland.

Despite playing for Australia for more than a decade, this weekend was the first time she had the opportunity to play for her country in Australia.

30-year-old Bertolacci, said while she was sad to finish her playing career, she is excited about the future – and would one day like to coach an Australian team.

“It would be nice, wouldn’t it,” she said.

“I’d love to. Of course I’d be interested. 100 per cent.

“To be honest, before the game I didn’t even think about my retirement. But at the end I looked around, and thought this was a pretty good way to go out. It was pretty emotional.”

Volleyball Australia is pleased to announce that it will throw the doors open at the Finals of the World Women’s Grand Prix offering all spectators the opportunity to see world class women’s volleyball for the first time since 2000 Olympics at a door entry price of just $5.

Two major sponsors have come on board to support the hosting of world women’s volleyball, comparable to the World League of Men’s Volleyball which completed this weekend in Melbourne.

BendonLingerie.com and Hancock Prospecting have both underwritten the hosting of the event to ensure equality of opportunity for our women’s Volleyroos and to continue the commitment of Volleyball Australia to gender equality in all aspects of the delivery of volleyball in Australia. 

“As the world’s largest gender equal team sport, its imperative we build the profile and opportunities for our Women Volleyroos.  For too long a lack of government funding has dictated a lack of focus but last year Volleyball Australia committed to delivering to our women’s team a rebuilding program towards Tokyo 2020.  The World Women’s Grand Prix is the ideal event for our Volleyroos who have competed in Kazakhstan and Algeria in the preliminary rounds ahead of the Group 3 Finals this weekend at the AIS Arena in Canberra.”

The World Women’s Grand Prix will be the first world women’s volleyball event hosted in Australia since Sydney 2000 and Volleyball Australia implores volleyball and women’s sport supporters to attend the event and support in numbers the Volleyroos as they take on Columia,, Peru and Kenya in the finals this weekend in an event televised globally.

Matches start at 4pm Saturday, with Columbia playing Peru, and the the Volleyroos will take on Kenya at 7pm.  Sunday's finals are set for 1pm and 4pm.

Get your tickets online at http://eventopia.co/WGP2015

 

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.

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.