Australians David Ferguson and Matthew Young blocking against Puerto Rican Jose Rivera
Tokyo, Japan, December 1, 2007 -- Australia fought a battle of attrition with Puerto Rico at the World Cup on Saturday and bulldozed their way to a 25-21, 15-25, 25-18, 25-21 victory at Komazawa University Gymnasium in Tokyo.
The Aussies (3-6) were coming from a run of four 0-3 defeats and taking the scalp of fifth-ranked Puerto Rico would be a major scalp for them. The Puerto Ricans were 5-4 going into the match and had the tournament's highest scorer in the high-flying Hector Soto.
In fact, the match featured the tournament's two highest scorers. Soto had 174 points going into this match against 170 for Carroll.
Soto came out on top in the individual battle with 26 points to Carroll's 17, but the Aussies took home the main prize of the victory to improve to 4-6 in the tournament.
The Australians had the edge early on with Benjamin Hardy finding his range, while a brilliant block by Luke Campbell on Soto put the Aussies 8-5 up at the first technical timeout. Australia stretched their lead to five points at 11-6 but a spike by Soto and a brilliant first-time effort on the turn by Jose Rivera started to turn things around for Puerto Rico. Soto came up with a big piledriver and followed that up with a neatly disguised push shot. Australia added a couple of errors and the scores were tied at 16-16. But two Puerto Rico errors handed the initiative back to Australia and a big thump by Hardy gave them a three-point lead. A serve by David Ferguson caught the net and trickled over to give the Aussies a 23-19 lead, while a long serve by Puerto Rico veteran Luis Rodriguez gave Australia matchpoint, which they converted on a spike by Igor Yudin.
Australia struggled to get going at the start of the second set despite an opening bomb from Carroll. A big smash from Victor Rivera and a block by Rodriguez on Yudin saw Puerto Rico take a three-point lead. Rivera then added to his smash count with two more winners, Angel Perez blocked Yudin and Soto hit a massive smash to put Puerto Rico up 12-5 and in control. The Australians continued to fight hard, epitomized at one point by an amazing diving save from Brett Alderman, but they were getting spiked from all directions by the Puerto Ricans and were unable to close the gap. A receiving error by libero Phillip Desalvo brought setpoint and another big hit by Soto leveled the set scores at 1-1.
Puerto Rico coach Carlos Cardona called a timeout after just three points of the third set, but he couldn't stop the Aussies cruising into the lead. Jose Rivera was blocked on successive points, while both Alderman and Ferguson scored service aces as the Australians led 8-2 at the first technical timeout. The Puerto Ricans tried to claw their way back through Soto -- he scored their first six points -- but still couldn't make any inroads on the fighting Aussies, who were six points up by the second TTO. But both sides were playing tough volleyball and every point had to be earned. However, the Australians were the tougher of the two teams. A big block by Ferguson on Victor Rivera brought the score to 23-17 and that was followed by a similar move by Campbell on Jose Rivera. Carroll finished things off with a spike that was blocked wide and the Aussies were 2-1 up.
Puerto Rico dug in at the start of the fourth set and were helped by three Australian service errors, but after a Carroll blast and two Puerto Rico errors, Australia were 8-5 up. But two humungous thunderbolts from Soto put the Puerto Ricans back on track and they were level at 9-9. They took one-point leads at 12-11, 13-12 and 14-13, but three errors and a neat flick over the net by Alderman allowed the Aussies to take the advantage again with a four-point lead at 18-14. Soto and Victor Rivera helped close that to 22-20, but a big spike by Yudin and a wide spike by Victor Rivera brought the Aussies to matchpoint. Rivera then sealed Puerto Rico's fate by sending a serve long.