Bologna, Italy, September 23, 2018 – In their last match at this edition of the FIVB Men’s World Championship, Australia, who back in Poland 2014 finished the tournament in 15th place, claimed a hard-fought 3-2 (23-25, 25-20, 19-25, 25-22, 15-11) victory over the team of Slovenia and leave the tournament on a positive note. Luke Smith (21 points) was the player who contributed most to this victory, taking the initiative in important moments and showing the world that the future for Australian volleyball is bright.
Smith, together with his teammates Lincoln Williams (16 points), Nehemiah Mote (12 points) and Samuel Walker (12 points) showed what a real team spirit is all about and the Volleyroos congratulated themselves with a much-desired win.
For Slovenia Toncek Stern (16 points) and captain Tine Urnaut (15 points) gave their best, but their team struggled to maintain their level for the whole match and this resulted in saying Goodbye to the World Championship with a loss.
In the first set, Australia took a small lead at 7-4, but then Dejan Vincic amazed with a great block. The Australians kept the lead at 9-6. Slovenia’s reception was suffering, but Klemen Cebulj’s good performance in attack did not let the Australians widen their lead. As the set was unfolding, Slovenia got closer in the score and even equalised at 16-16 after improving their play in attack. Slovenia took the initiative, while Australia made some unforced errors. Thanks to sharp attacks in the centre by Nehemiah Mote - who scored five points in the set - Australia saved two set points, but Tine Urnaut responded swiftly and with a great attack opened the match at 25-23 in Slovenia’s favour.
The first technical timeout of the second set came with the result standing at 8-5 for Australia. They kept on leading at 14-9, after Lincoln Williams showed nice play in attack, so the head coach of Slovenia Slobodan Kovac called a timeout. To cheer the atmosphere even more and entertain the supporters in PalaDozza, the reserve players of Australia dance to the sound of Macarena. It seemed to be working out good as their teammates on the field increased their advantage to eight points at 18-10. Slovenia pushed, but inspired and supported by the fans, Australia won their first set in the second round of this Men’s World Championship, emerging victorious at 25-20. Luke Smith contributed to the set win with seven points.
Slovenia responded immediately and Tine Urnaut on the service line made it difficult for Australia’s reception, with even one ace by the Slovenian captain. Until the end of the set the Slovenians kept on dominating, being able to finish their attacks, as Australia’s defence was not on top level. The Volleyroos tried to respond in the last minutes with two points, scored by Luke Smith and Trent O’Dea, but this was not enough as Slovenia closed the set at 25-19.
Australia started better in the fourth set, making four points in a row, but Slovenia were able to equalise at 10-10. However, the Australians remained more concentrated and they again were leading at 14-12. Having started to believe more in themselves, they increased the point difference to four at 21-17. Slovenia saved two set points, but Williams brought this matchup into a tiebreak at 25-22.
It was a close game in the most important and decisive moments of this matchup. However, the players headed by Mark Lebedew responded better to the tension and emerged victorious at 15-11.