The Melbourne University Blues women’s team won back-to-back Australian Volleyball League titles with a come-from-behind win over UTS-SU at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre yesterday.
The reigning national champions, the University Blues went into the final as favourites having finished the home and away season atop the ladder. They also defeated the Queensland Pirates comfortably in Saturday’s semi-final (three sets to one). But the grand-final would prove to be a different story.
Having lost the first two sets, the Uni Blues were staring down the barrel of a straight sets loss in the biggest game of the year before digging deep to mount a miraculous comeback. After clearing away to a four point lead early in the first set off the back of a some great serving from first year walk-on and Yale graduate Hayley Wessels, the team lost their way to drop the set 25:27. The second set went from bad to worse with UTS-SU’s defensive game shutting down the Melbourne offense. The gold medal game was in jeopardy when UTS-SU won the second set 25 - 18.
Melbourne University Volleyball Club Vice-President and Uni Blues Team Manager Rosemary Bissett had faith in the team and was confident they could get themselves back into the game.
“If they can grit their teeth and get on the board with the third set, they’ll grow in confidence and it’s game on”, said Ms Bissett.
And that’s just what the Uni Blues did. The third set ebbed and flowed with each team taking its turn to lead by a point or two. Melbourne’s offense started to come together and some big swings from Hannah Martin and Rebecca Walter started to pierce the UTS-SU front line. As the large crowd of Australian Schools Championship spectators began to find their voice, Melbourne pinched the set, 25 - 23. Game on.
The fourth set was another nail-biter with UTS-SU getting to within a couple of points of winning the set and winning the gold. With Uni Blues coach Shannon Winzer pulling some line-up changes and calling some strategic time-outs, the fourth set again went Melbourne’s way, 26 - 24. Two set all.
The fifth and deciding set to 15 would be no different to the first four. Point for point, the two teams slugged it out. Perhaps it was the momentum of having won the past two sets? Perhaps it was the past experience of having won the title the previous year? Perhaps it was a simple belief they had in each other? Whatever it was, it worked and the Melbourne University Blues prevailed, 15 – 13. The Uni Blues were Australian Volleyball League champions again.