Chile tour shows Volley Blacks competitive at high level

Looking back on the Volley Blacks' eight game tour of Chile, coach Sebastian Gonzalez saw a lot of improvement and some fine performances from his team, all but two of whom had not played international volleyball before. 

"It was great. The boys played at an amazing level. While we didn't get that win, we had some really tight games - to play like that against the fourth best team in the world is a big achievement. That means there's a lot of talent in New Zealand, and we just need to do a little bit more work in the program to get them to that level," said Sebastian. 

While the Volley Blacks pushed Chile hard, taking many sets deep, when it came to the critical points, the hosts showed that they'd been there before and their experience told in the end. 

"We were obviously a bit disappointed not to win a match - there were many times that we did live video analysis and looked at what we could have done differently. It's a real learning curve." 

"Many of the boys hadn't been in this kind of situation, they got a little bit nervous playing with a large crowd with people screaming, so it was a good learning experience for the younger players," said Sebastian.  

The crowds were large and noisy throughout the tour, with fans allowed on the floor afterwards for photos and autographs, and would sometimes bring presents for the team. 

"So the boys were pretty happy about that. The Chilean fans show a lot of love for the touring teams. And like the total amount of people that went to the stadiums throughout the tour was about 19,000 people - the gyms were packed for every match wherever we went to play, people sitting, people standing, people not getting in, so that was really nice to see as well," said Sebastian. 

On the court, the Volley Blacks weren't afraid to go for their shots, looking to take Chile out of their usual system and apply pressure, particularly on their serve.  

"Our jump servers were really trying to start the points with some power. And so some days you can have an amazing serving day, and others you miss a few, we tried to start the points by going for it. Chile's big servers were going at 118kph, while our big servers Mana and Jacob were going at 116, 117, so there wasn't much difference between the sides, but it's about that consistency, which will come with more time together," said Sebastian.  

The next focus will be preparing for the Asian Champs in 2025, with the team missing the latest edition becuase of government warning over travelling to Iran, but Sebastian is sure the team's experience in Chile is a strong platform to build on. 

"The connection and the team environment were really good. There's always problems travelling and playing so many games back to back. But at the end, we spoke about this lifelong connection and memories, and telling grandchildren about what we'd just experienced, so that's really important as well."

"It was a full on tour, thanks to all our sponsors and management, and everyone who made the tour possible."
"We've shown we can compete at a high level, so we need to be at the FIVB tournaments and improve our ranking, build on the programme and aim for better tournaments," said Sebastian.  


Watch: Volley Blacks close in game seven

Chile were too strong once more in the seventh tour match in Puerto Montt. 

They lead the tour series 7-0, with the last match on Monday at 12pm NZ time from Los Angeles. 



Watch: Volley Blacks take first set on tour

The Volley Blacks have broken through to record their first set win on tour.  

Consistent serving and another powerful display at the net on attack and defence saw the team take the second set 25-21, then save two match points in the fourth set, when they could have easily pushed the match to a fifth. It was a statement performance in front of another noisy and partisan home crowd, promising much for the last games on tour. 

Chile lead the tour matches 6-0, with the next game scheduled for 12pm Saturday in Puerto Montt.  




Chile too strong in game five

Chile were too strong for the Volley Blacks, in another high quality match up, with Sam Hodges unstoppable at the net, and Luke Hulston playing a strong all around game at Libero. 

Troy Hulston said the team was making progress in all facets - despite some struggles on the serve, everything else is taking a step up. 

"Each game has had its own focus, we’ve blocked and served and hit well in some games, then it’s just about putting it all together in one performance." 

"Chile’s consistency has impressed me the most, they don’t really have lapses, they tend to side out straight away - we’re just trying to apply a bit more service pressure  to combat it."  

Chiule lead the tour series 5-0, with the next game 12pm Friday NZ time at Puerto Varas. 


Set goes down to the wire in game four

The Volley Blacks pushed Chile hard again in the third set, in their second game at Concepcion in two days.

After conceding the first two sets 26-14 and 25-16, the two teams could not be separated right through the third set, going point for point well into the set. The team were able to show they could match Chile at times, and are working hard to meet that standard more consistently. 

"There were some points of real promise and glimmers of excellence," said the Volley Blacks' Sam Hodges. "We've taken a lot of strategies we've talked about off the court and implemented them into the game, trying to find that rhythm and those connections and really make a bigger impact on the games to come." 

Johann Timmer and Mana Placid were again huge at the net and clinical when it mattered, but some missed serves at crunch times cost the Volley Blacks once more late in the third set. 

"We had a great team talk before the match and looked to try and change strategies, but unfortunately we couldn't get the result we wanted today," said Sam Hodges, who is enjoying the experience of being on tour. 

"Although it's tiring, we've learned a lot with the back to back matches, just constant reps day in day out, including a training in the morning and even a gym session. We're learning a lot. You have to try and get sleep and naps in when you can, we do our best but it's tricky! But life on the road is fantastic, it's a crazy switch up from life back home!" 

Chile lead the tour matches 4-0, with the next game happening at 12pm on Thursday 20 July NZ time. 

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