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 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.”

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.

MORE GLORY FOR AUSTRALIAN BEACH PAIR ON ASIAN TOUR

Australian beach volleyballers Nicole Laird and Mariafe Artacho del Solar have won their third Asian title in four outings with a straight sets win in the Tuan Chau Ha Long Open in Vietnam.

Laird and del Solar beat New Zealand’s Julia Tilley and Alice Bain 21-12, 21-17 to add the Vietnam title to wins in Thailand and Indonesia.

Their only defeat during their Asian tour came at the hands of fellow HelloWorld Volleyroos, Becchara Palmer and Phoebe Bell, at the Palembang Open in Indonesia one week ago.

Palmer and Bell finished the Ha Long Open in fifth position.

“The goals for us before our Asian tour were to practice being and playing a certain way, regardless of who was on the other side of the net or what pressures were around,” Laird said.

“I think for the most part we achieved that. In the moments that we didn’t, a lot of lessons have been learned.”

Laird and del Solar are the reigning World U23 Champions, and will attempt to qualify for this year’s Olympics when they contest the Asian Olympic qualifiers in Cairns in June.

In March they finished runners-up to China’s Chen Xue and Xinyi Xia at the Asian Championships at Sydney’s Manly Beach.

The Chinese pair are likely to start favourites for the Olympic qualifier, and Laird knows it will be a challenge.

“We still have a lot more growth left and a lot of lessons to learn as a team before Cairns, but we faced a few of the top teams in the past few weeks and it gives us the confidence we can keep moving in the right direction,” she said.

“We’re very excited that the tournament will be held in Cairns. It isn’t a city that has had too much domestic or international volleyball attention, so we’re keen to check it out and play in front of a home crowd.”

Cairns to host Olympic volleyball qualifier

27 April 2016

A major Olympic Games qualifying event will bring the Asia-Pacific region’s best international volleyball talent to Cairns in June.

Volleyball Australia has today announced that the AVC Beach Volleyball Continental Cup Final will be played on the Cairns Esplanade on 20-26 June.

Mayor Bob Manning said the event was expected to attract 64 teams from eight countries, along with officials and supporters.

“This tournament is a direct qualifier for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, which means we’ll be watching the absolute cream of the sport in action,” Cr Manning said.

“It will be broadcast into 800 million homes in Australia and Asia and help to grow the fantastic sport of volleyball in North Queensland. We thank Volleyball Australia for selecting Cairns to host this event.”

HelloWorld Volleyball Australia Chief Executive Officer, Mathieu Meriaux, said it was exciting to be bringing such a major event to Far North Queensland.

“Volleyball Australia is thrilled to bring world-class beach volleyball to Cairns, with the opportunity for Far North Queensland to witness not only the best HelloWorld Volleyroos, but also the best players from throughout Asia,” Mr Meriaux said.

“We are very grateful for the support shown already by Mayor Bob Manning and the Cairns Regional Council, and believe this will be the start of a long and exciting relationship between Cairns and one of Australia’s most popular sports.

“It is particularly exciting that Cairns will be the launch point for Asia’s best beach volleyballers on their way to the sands of Copacabana Beach.”

Cairns Regional Council supported the bid with a $150,000 contribution, which includes the provision of two specially-built show courts to be constructed adjacent to the existing Esplanade courts.

Six hundred cubic metres of sand will be brought in to create the 30m x 50m courts, which will be accompanied by a 1000-seat temporary grandstand.

Cr Manning said the investment was a good fit for the city.

“Given Cairns’ waterfront location, our city naturally extends itself to water or beach sports, in particular beach volleyball,” Cr Manning said.

“Through the hosting of this event, we hope to forge a relationship with Volleyball Australia that will lead to other opportunities to host national and international level volleyball here in Cairns.”