Nakhon Ratchasima, September 23, 2018 – Australia successfully broke the deadlock in their match against Iran as they produced a gritty 3-1 comeback win in the 7th-8th playoff encounter, the third time Aussies met the old foes at the 6th AVC Cup for Women at Chartchai Hall here on Sunday.
The hard-fought 22-25 26-24 26-24 25-18 win helped Australia maintain their 7th place they had achieved in their debut effort in the inaugural AVC Cup for Women in 2008 in Nakhon Ratchasima. More importantly, it was the first win against Iranians, to whom they had already lost twice here comprising the 0-3 loss in the Pool C first round and the 1-3 defeat in the 5th-10th classification round earlier.
Contesting the 7th-8th playoff match on Sunday has ensured Iran that they would return with a below-par performance. In the previous edition in Vinh Phuc, Vietnam two years ago, Iran finished 6th place overall.
The 192cm ace spiker Rachel Rourke was in the Australia’s starting lineup in a tough match against Iran, powered by Maedeh Borhani Esfahani.
Australia got off to a convincing start, with Rourke attacking from the first whistle to race out to a 5-1 lead, but shortly after that, they were errors-strewn with poor reception. Iran gradually pulled their game together. Maedeh overpowered the taller blockers with her sharp blows to put her team in front with a four-point clear at 18-14. Iran stormed on to take the opening set 25-22.
Australia found their touch in the second set, with captain Beth Carey producing sliding attacks to help the team take an initial 10-7 lead. Iran intensified their defence to foil the rivals’ attacking attempts, but their intention was not successful as Aussies came up with improved performance and gutsy display to stretch the lead to 18-16. Coach Javad Mehregan called a timeout to improve his team’s fortune and Iran met the tough rivals at 18-18 before surging ahead to 24-22, needing only one more point to win the set. Determined Australia hit back with attacks and blocks to level at 24-24 and continued their great show to win both points for the hard-fought 26-24 win.
The third set was still dominated by Australia. Monique Stojanovic and Rourke effectively blocked Iran for several occasions, while Rourke, Stojanovic and Jaimee-Lee Morrow joined hands in letting loose their attacks to help the Aussies level at 19-19. Iran started to gain control since then. With Maedeh and Mahsa Saberi attacking aggressively at the net and Shabnam Alikhani carrying out well-placed serves, Iran captured the commanding 24-21 lead to need one crucial point to wrap up the set. Nonetheless, things turned sour for the Iranians as Australia clawed their way back to rally past the rivals 26-24.
Holding 2-1 advantage, Australia played more confidently in the fourth set, which they jumped to a comfortable 15-9 lead. As the Aussies played with consistency and confidence, Iran succumbed to lapses and attacking mistakes. Australia continued their remarkable run to win the set 25-18, match and the 7th place.
“This is the third time we met Iran in this tournament. I think one thing that is consistent for us for the whole tournament has been our serving and blocking. In this match against Iran, we started a little bit tense in the first set, down from the baseline and we came back with big blocks and this we could play volleyball. The game is our best game and I’m happy with the result. This is the last competition this year. We will return to the club professionally and will come back together next year hopefully for VNL continental qualifiers and Asian Senior Championship,” Australia head coach Shannon Winzer commented after the match.