WILLIAMS NOT ENOUGH FOR VOLLEYROOS AGAINST IRAN
Rouen, France, May 2016, 2018 – Australia conceded its second defeat in Saturday’s action at the men’s Nation League as Lincoln Williams scored 18 points in a 3-0 sweep at the hands of Iran (25-23, 25-23, 25-21).
Iran, in their usual style, didn’t play with much fanfare but coach Kolakovic’s men proved once again a well-oiled machine as Ali Shafiei yielded 17 points, including 3 blocks and 2 aces.
Shafiei had a large support crew but special mention needs to go to Seyed Mohammad Mousavi Eraghi (8 spikes, 1 block, 2 aces) as well as Amir Ghafour (6 points).
Opposite spiker Williams was the most gallant in defeat, top-scoring at 18 ahead of Luke Smith (12 points) but the 24-year old misfired and struggled against a solid Iran block.
After losing their opening Nations League games on Friday, both team were after their first win of the season. It was also a matter of regional domination as Iran and Australia met for the third time in a world competition (one win each).
After troubling hosts France (3-1) the day before, Iran started strongly on the back of an interesting run behind the line by middle blocker Seyed Mohammad Mousavi Eraghi (5-9). But it wasn’t enough to hold off their Asian counterparts as the Aussies clawed back into the game as Lincoln Alexander Williams managed yet another powerful spike (14-12). Sneakily, Igor Kolakovic’s men remained within reach of Australia only to leapfrog in front at the business end of the first set (25-23).
The Volleyroos started the second set strongly but Iran, thanks to its efficient block led by Ali Shafiei, managed to keep composure (6-6). Both teams fought tooth and nails as Seyed Mohammad Mousavi Eraghi levelled at 14-14. Two spikes from Williams then sent Australia in front but the 2007 Asian champs couldn’t remain there despite an impressive double block from Max Staples… In a brilliant rally, Iran came once again from behind and closed the deal as Ali Shafiei stole the set with a powerful spike (25-23).
It was more of the same in the third as Iran proved highly efficient, thanks largely to a dominating block (6-4). And when Seyed Mohammad Mousavi Eraghi found the target, there was nothing from stopping Iran to claim its maiden victory. Not Smith’s spike at 13-10, not even Shafiei’s wide attempt at 18-14. With the wind in their sails, Iran sealed the deal with another misfire by Williams (25-21).
Iran player Milad Ebadipour: “This was a good game on our part. We were frustrated with the loss against France yesterday, but we played well tonight. I really believe that we can qualify to the finals if we will maintain this level. We need to finish our stay here with a win against Japan.”
Australia coach Mark Lebedew: “Yesterday, for reasons which remain unclear, we were really nervous. Today, with one more sleep, we were more ready to play. Everybody’s focus was different, but we are still not close to our normal level. Out of the fifteen games in this Volleyball Nations League, I though we could win seven, but now maybe just six given yesterday’s loss. We should have been able to take one set tonight and that would have probably change how the match would unfold.”
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