Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, September 16, 2018 – Powerful Rachel Rourke scored a match-high 33 points to steer Australia to a fantastic 3-2 (21-25 21-25 26-24 25-16 15-10) victory over the Philippines in their opening match at the 6th AVC Cup for Women at Chartchai Hall here on Sunday.
Rachel Rourke was the lone player from Australia who scored a double-digit 33 points from 27 devastating attacks and a team-leading 6 blocks. Alyssa Valdez contributed 25 points for the Philippines including 24 kills from 76 attempts, while Mylene Paat added 17 points.
The Philippines, which finished eighth at the recent Asian Games in Indonesia, sent a young team this time but remained strong with the likes of experienced Alyssa Valdez and Abigail Marano, while Australia fielded a tall line-up including the 192cm Rachel Rourke.
Both sides started confidently in the first set, but with Valdez and left-hander Mylene Paat on the board immediately and Marano following up with sliding attacks, the Philippines led the rivals with a two-point clear at 11-9. Nevertheless, Australia came roaring back through the powerful attacks from the high-flying Rourke to level at 11-11 and went on their attacks to widen the gap to 21-18. The Filipinas’ resilience was showcased through fine attacks from Paat and Valdez which saw them catch the rivals at 21-21 and take the hard-fought set 25-21.
Australia shrugged off their rust to engineer a fightback in the second set, which they took an early 8-2 lead at the first technical timeout, thanks to their improved defence and Jennifer Tait’s well-placed serves. However, their delight was short-lived as the Filipinas were playing smart and positioning themselves well for the counter-attacks after that. Both teams traded points in the middle of the set, but the Philippines stayed in front with a two-point advantage at 18-16. As the Aussies were errors-strewn, the smaller-built Filipinas, whose height average is 173cm against the opponents’ 183cm, remained in superb form to win the set with the similar margin 25-21.
In the third set, Australia gave it all-out with an aim of making amends for the loss in the first two sets. Their more determination worked out pretty well as they initially led 6-0. The Philippines gradually clawed back into the game to stay hot on the rivals’ heels and trail with just one point behind at 18-19. As Aussies lost their touch, the Philippines went for everything to meet the rivals at 20-20 and again 24-24. However, the Philippine efforts turned sour when the rivals seemingly went through the motion to score successive two points for a narrow 26-24 win.
A one-set win raised the Australia’s confidence as they took command in the fourth set with an early 6-2 lead, thanks to Rourke’s powerful spikes. As Aussies intensified their defence, the Philippines found it tough going. Leading 19-15 for good, Australia never looked back, allowing the rivals only one more point to wrap up the set 25-16.
The tie-breaker was more thrilling with both sides locked in a tight contest. Cheered on by their noisy fans inside the venue, the Philippines recovered from a slow start to surge ahead the opponents 8-6. Rourke gave Australia a strong comeback to level at 8-8 and they advanced 12-8. The Philippines hit back bravely, but their determined attempts were to no avail. Australia continued their remarkable run to capture the decider 15-10 and match.
“Earlier in the international season, we wouldn’t be in that moment (comeback win) and panic, but today we played with patience and confidence. So, we had a chance to come back. We saw Kazakhstan play this morning. They are young and blocked well. They are aggressive on the blocks. One thing to help is we have to rely more on service pressure and worked on our system a bit more. I think it will be a good game,” Australia head coach Shannon Winzer commented after the match.
On Monday, Philippines take on Iran, while Australia play Kazakhstan.