The Helloworld Travel Australian Volleyroos head to Kazakhstan this weekend considered an outside chance of qualifying for next year’s Women’s Volleyball World Championships, but confident they can make an impact.
Olympic gold medallists, China, and host nation Kazakhstan are the two teams favoured to qualify for next year’s event in Japan, but Volleyroos coach Shannon Winzer said her young team is improving all the time.
“I'm always excited for this team to compete,” Winzer said.
“Every time we play it's an opportunity to gauge where we are at as a team. I think that the absence of our two top scorers at World Grand Prix, Rachel Rourke and Karley Hynes, presents a big challenge for us, but it also creates a lot of opportunities for younger players to step up and gain experience against some top teams.
“That experience will only help us build a foundation for increased success in the coming years.”
Australia has qualified twice for the Women’s Volleyball World Championships; in 1982, when it finished 12th, and in 2002, when it finished 21st.
But in the past 12 months Australia has established a full-time women’s volleyball Centre of Excellence, based at the AIS in Canberra, a program which has attracted the country’s most exciting young players under the guidance of coach Winzer.
A measure of the program’s success has been the recent signing of three of the COE’s first intake group to overseas contracts.
And Winzer said the team has adapted well to a new playing style.
“I think we continue to make steady progress as a team and as a program,” she said.
“I don't think I'll ever be the coach who is totally satisfied with where we are at, but we are moving forward and that's encouraging. This year we introduced triple blocking to our defensive systems and that has not only helped us score more points on block but also enabled us to defend more around the block and increase our transition percentage.
“I'm happy with how quickly the team adopted that style of play and how aggressive they are becoming with it.”
Fiji and Chinese Taipei are the remaining two teams competing in Almaty next week, with Australia taking on Chinese Taipei in its opening match next Wednesday.
Only the top two teams go through to the World Championships, but Winzer will be looking for other achievements to gauge how well her team is progressing.
“Success will not just be measured by wins and losses, but also by how hard we push teams like China,” she said.
“How often can we force teams out of system, how consistently can we stick to our style of play and how little do we back down?”