Australian volleyball coach Mark Lebedew and captain Paul Carroll are as one when it comes to identifying what the Volleyroos need to do to win the FIVB World League Group Two finals on the Gold Coast this weekend - replicate their form of the past three weeks.
The Volleyroos take on current Asian champions Japan later today at the Gold Coast Sports and Leisure Centre at Carrara, with the winner going through to play the winner of the semi-final between Slovenia and The Netherlands on Sunday.
They come into the tournament in imposing form, having won six of their nine preliminary round matches, including a five-set thriller against Japan one week ago.
“Being at home we obviously have the advantage of being comfortable and having our home fans near us,” Carroll said.
“We were able to use that two years ago when we hosted in Sydney, when we beat Netherlands and beat France in the final. Our goal is to replicate that performance.
“Obviously our goal is to win all our games here. We had a pretty good run through the Group stages.”
The Australian World League team of 2017 is vastly different to the team which just failed to qualify for last year’s Olympics.
Lebedew took over as coach in December last year, Carroll took over the captaincy role on the eve of the World League, and injuries and unavailabilities forced a reshuffle of the playing squad.
But the Volleyroos adapted quickly, comfortable in the knowledge they would play in this weekend’s finals no matter what happened in the preliminaries.
“We were lucky enough not to have to worry about qualifying ourselves, we were able to concentrate on the volleyball we wanted to play and getting a lot of guys on the court,” Carroll said.
“Even though we played with all 14 guys over all three rounds, we were able to qualify ourselves anyway and we got a lot of confidence out of that.”
For Lebedew this weekend will carry the extra pressure of coaching the Australian senior team for the first time on Australian soil.
“It’s going to be a very special day for me tomorrow, but it’s not about me or anyone in particular, it’s about the team and the work we’ve been doing for six or seven weeks now,” he said.
“The improvements that we’ve made, the team spirit, the team unity, the style of play that we’ve built over this time.
“When it comes to the game tomorrow all we’ll be thinking about is how do we replicate that two more times, to do what we’ve been doing for the past two months now.”
Slovenia qualified top of Group two, losing just the one match, while Netherlands lost two matches. Australia finished third, and Japan just ahead off Asian rivals China in fourth.
The Volleyroos lost 3-1 to Japan on the opening weekend of this year’s World League, before turning the tables with last week’s 3-2 win in China.
Carroll said even though both teams know each other well, game plans always change.
“I think the modern volleyball you can’t know what the other team is going to do,” he said.
“We need to use our size and our physicality, it’s going to be a bit of a fight, but if we throw everything at them, they are probably going to know how we are going to play, they’ve played us twice already.
“But if we are hitting our best shots, be high and powerful, they may know what we are going to do, but they may not be able to stop us.”
Slovenia takes on Netherlands in today’s first semi-final, beginning at 5:10pm, with Australia taking on Japan at 7:40pm.
Sunday’s gold medal match starts at 4:10pm.