The Australian men’s volleyball team has survived some last-minute jitters to post a hard-fought five-set win over Portugal in their opening match of the 2017 FIVB World League in Slovakia.
The Volleyroos held three match points at 14-11 in the fifth set, before losing the next four points to be staring down the barrel of a heart-breaking defeat.
But the team, led superbly by Australia’s most capped international player, Nathan Roberts, and captain Paul Carroll, rallied to finally take the set 20-18 and the match, 3-2.
“I learned tonight we are capable of playing very well for long periods and we don't get discouraged too easily” coach Lebedew, who was in his first World League game in charge of Australia, said.
“After losing the first set, then fourth, then losing match balls we just kept plugging away and giving it our best shot.
“All wins add to the confidence of the team and to the group memory, for want of a better description. It is a good starting point, we are improving every day, but we have a long way to go.”
Roberts, with 350 caps for Australia, led the way for the Volleyroos with 29 points in a man-of-the-match performance, while Carroll finished with 24 points in a strong all-round performance.
“I am very proud that we mentally stuck in,” Carroll said.
“It is very hard when you waste a lead like this, it was 14-11 for us. I am happy that we were able to win it finally and it is important for us, because it was our first official match in this season."
The Australians lost the opening set 21-25, but then appeared to have the match under control when they took the next two sets 25-20, 25-18, before Portugal fought back to take the fourth 22-25 to level the tie.
The final set was extraordinary, with the Volleyroos seemingly cruising to victory at 14-11, then trailing 14-15, and then again 15-16, before finally getting the win 20-18.
Australia takes on home team Slovakia early Sunday morning, Australian time, in Poprad. Slovakia beat Japan 3-0 on Friday night.