Australia has finished the second weekend of the FIVB World League with a perfect record, beating home team Finland 3-1 in front of the biggest crowd ever to watch a men’s volleyball match in Helsinki.
It was a fighting performance from the helloworld travel Volleyroos, who won the opening set 25-21 but then lost all form in the second set, losing 14-25.
Coach Mark Lebedew took full advantage of his bench, and with captain Paul Carroll (22 points) leading the way, the Australians clawed their way back to take the next two sets 25-21, 25-19 and the match 3-1.
“The difference was, when we were down in the second set, and then again in the third and not looking so good, we were able to get a small run, get a bit of confidence, and shift the momentum a little bit,” Lebedew said.
“They weren’t able to serve as strong when the score was close, and we were able to run away with it.
“We played the last set and a half really well.”
The win follows 3-0 wins over China and Slovakia, and comes after the team finished last weekend with one win and two losses.
Lebedew said his team is learning quickly.
“Everybody did a great job,” he said.
“There’s pressure from playing World League, there’s pressure from playing for Australia.
“I don’t know if there was so much pressure from playing in front of a big crowd, especially after we’ve played in front of 50 people on the past two days. Whatever the pressures were the guys handled them really well.”
A key to the form turn around in the second half of Saturday’s match was the introduction of Australia’s most experienced player, Nathan Roberts, to the game.
Roberts has been Australia’s most consistent performer in this year’s World League, and was thrilled with the form of his team in Helsinki.
“This is really important,” Roberts said.
“Getting three wins in a row is a really big weekend for us, I don’t know that we’ve ever done that in a World League before.
“It’s a tough weekend, and to play the last game against the home team was going to be the most difficult, and the guys really had to fight. I loved the way they bounced back from the second set and got the next two.”
Australia now heads to Kunshan in China next weekend for matches against the host nation, Turkey and Japan before heading home to Australia to host the FIVB World League Group Two finals on the Gold Coast on June 24/25.