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Australia, one step away from qualifying for World Championship

 
Kazakhstan player tries to beat blocking from Australian players

Canberra, Australia, September 7, 2013 – The Australian men's volleyball team clawed its way back from one set down to beat Kazakhstan in a hard-fought encounter for their second victory at the Pool A of the Asian Men’s final qualification round for the World Championships on Saturday, 3-1 (17-25, 25-23, 25-20, 25-17). 

The host – with two wins from two matches this tournament – is the only unbeaten team, as it prepares to play against last rivals Thailand on Sunday. Thailand was beaten by Kazakhstan in straight sets on the first day of the tournament. Saturday’s win almost guarantees Australia will qualify for next year's World Championships in Poland if they beat Thailand tomorrow.

Australian head coach Jon Uriarte described their win as the team's “toughest win in the seven or eight years I have coached this team,” referencing the come-from-behind victory.

The pressure on the host team was enormous in the first set. Australia gave up several easy points on serving early in the first set, and Kazakhstan put pressure on the Australians to win 25-17. More serving errors in the second set, especially from veterans Zingel and Tom Edgar, again put the Volleyroos behind. But this time they were able to regain their composure to snatch the set 25-23.The second-set loss appeared to snap Kazakhstan from their slumber, and they quickly raced to a 14-9 lead in the third. But some power hitting from Edgar and brilliant team-lifting performances by Greg Sukochev and Zingel stunned the crowd and the Kazach's, with the Volleyroos eventually taking the set 25-20.The comeback was a shock to Kazakhstan, as Australia cruised through the final set 25-17.

“After we finished the last Olympic cycle, this year has been very difficult,” said Australia’s Coach Uriarte. “We have had to find solutions in different spots. We got on court in such an important position a boy who is 17-years-old (libero Luke Perry). We have had to replace our starting centre, (Aidan) Zingel is coming back from a shoulder operation. It is his first major competition in eight months. Putting all this together, to come back to this first major competition was very difficult.”

Uriarte pointed out his team played Kazakhstan two years ago in China, and their opponents had exactly the same six in their starting line-up today. Australia only had three members of the starting line-up from that game.

"What happened during that match today was so important, because the team could react and read and adjust,” he said. “They were able to overcome emotionally the pressure applied by an excellent team.”

"I wouldn't say we got away with anything, I think we came back well and fought well,” Edgar said. “We had a time-out, we had a chat, we had a re-focus. They have a lot of young guys, like our team, so once you get on top of them, and get a big strong block in front of them, it makes it difficult to side out. We're one of the best blocking teams probably in the world with our size, so we can match it with anyone with our blocks."

Earlier in the day, Thailand notched its first victory of the tournament, beating Kuwait in four sets, 3-1 (25-27, 25-14, 25-18, 25-14), to give them an outside chance of qualifying for next year.

Kittikun Sriutthawong starred for Thailand, and said after the match his team's performance had been affected by poor food choices in their hotel.

In the Asian Men’s Final Qualification Tournament, 16 teams are split into four pools of four teams. Only the top ranked team in each pool will win a place at the 2014 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship, which will take place in Poland from September 3 to 21, 2014. 


Pool A: Australia (host), Kazakhstan, Thailand, Kuwait
Pool B: Iran (host), Pakistan, Indonesia, Bahrain
Pool C: China (host), India, Chinese Taipei, Saudi Arabia
Pool D: Japan (host), Korea, Qatar, New Zealand


Results and schedule:

 

September 6

Australia vs. Kuwait 3-0 (25-12, 25-16, 25-18)

Thailand vs. Kazakhstan 0-3 (17-25, 15-25, 22-25)

 

September 7

Thailand vs. Kuwait 3-1 (25-27, 25-14, 25-18, 25-14)

Australia vs. Kazakhstan 3-1(17-25, 25-23, 25-20, 25-17)

 

September 8

Kazakhstan vs. Kuwait

Australia vs. Thailand



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