The volley life - Volley Ferns tour wrap

With eight official matches against a strong Chile side, more against Under 19 sides, training, analysis and South American travel, it's been a packed return to international touring for the Volley Ferns. 

"It was full on!" said captain Petra Manderson. "We had non-stop volleyball and travel for two weeks, it's been pretty challenging at times, but it's been great for us as a team, an awesome experience with so much volleyball packed into such a short amount of time."

"As a team, we've learned to battle through things like a lack of sleep and different food, all those things you have to deal with when you're playing international volleyball," said Petra Manderson. 

As the first New Zealand touring side since 2019, the Ferns have certainly noticed the step up meeting a hardened Chile side, who are deep in preparation for the Pan American Games. 

"The game is definitely growing in New Zealand, but when you compete internationally it's a whole different level, a whole new speed. Getting to play so many games against a talented Chilean team was really good for us."

"Coming over here as underdogs and not winning a game was pretty tough, but I'm proud of how the team stayed together and went out there and fought for every point, wanted to win a match, and when we did win a set it was pretty epic, just how to battle through and not get down," said Petra Manderson. 

Some of the team are staying on to travel in Chile and to the States, but many will be on the plan home. Having bonded together, Manderson says she'll miss being with the team. "Just being together 24/7 and getting close with old and new friends, living the volley life! It's been fun." 

Volley Ferns push hard for Chile breakthrough

Game four: Chile 3 (25-23, 25-12, 25-20) New Zealand 0 in Los Andes | Watch replay

Game five: Chile 3 (25-10, 25-9, 25-13) New Zealand 0 in Santiago | Watch replay

For Volley Ferns coach Sebastian Gonzalez Moreno, the Chilean tour has been a chance to develop his team and players significantly in a short space of time, touring and training, along with several chances to pit themselves against the strong home side.

"We're loving it. We've been travelling a lot from one place to another, with one or two days in one place and then on to the next one," said Sebastian.

The Ferns have been playing in the mornings behind closed doors against the Under 19 teams, who are preparing for the World Cup, then taking on the strong Chilean team, who are preparing for the Pan American games.

"It's been full on. They're a great team with a bigger squad than us, many of the players are basically semi-professional, so we're just trying to recycle the squad and keep everyone fresh," said Sebastian.

"Chile are a dominant team, they train 3-4 times a day - the first couple of days on the tour were rough, because we had to adjust to their level, but as we've gone, the girls have become more competitive and consistent. And obviously touring is different, there's a lot to get used to."

The team have been loving the experience of being on tour and playing in front of big, noisy crowds, with players staying behind after matches to take photos and sign autographs for the fans.

"The crowds have been super respectful, cheering our players and the good shots and rallies. After matches, the fans have been coming on court for photos, sharing gifts and chocolates and getting jersies signed. It's a very cool experience and something new for us."

The team is trying to focus on the good points, taking positive feedback from Sebastien and reflecting on what can be done better, and this work is showing up in the results, with the team pushing Chile hard in game four. In the first set the team were two points away from winning a set, only to go down 25-23.

"It was an amazing game, the girls are really finding this level and consistency it takes to match teams like Chile. The main weapon was our blocking, it's been very strong, and we were able to put a lot of pressure on the serve, as well as kill points at the net."

"Game five was pretty rough, there were a couple of external factors we didn't quite deal with, and we weren't able to perform like we wanted to, it was just one of those days where we tried everything, but nothing worked. It's just about taking the lessons and moving on."

This amount of game time and being able to spend so much time in video analysis has seen serious improvement already on tour for the Ferns, putting them in a great space for the future.

"The team has been really self-driven, seeing themselves improve as we've gone on. You can see them thinking 'We can actually take them on when we play well.'"

"We've not been able to tip over and beat a pretty solid team like Chile yet, but it's about getting better all the time - there have been close moments, and if we can work to find that consistency and level of performance through a whole set, we can push them very hard."

Ferns go close in Game 3

 Chile 3 (25-20, 25-14, 25-17) New Zealand 0

The Volley Ferns fought hard once again in game three against Chile in Iquique but went down 3 sets to nil, as they creep closer to taking a set off the home team.

Both teams played to a high standard, but the Chilean team were able to find deep corner shots consistently, finding answers time and time again to the Ferns blocking game.

"Chile have some incredible hitters, they'll hit where our block isn't consistently. They have such diverse and adaptable players, they can play anywhere," said the Ferns' Lilly Zwart.

Zwart paid tribute to her captain, Petra Manderson, who was everywhere for the visitors.

"There was a super long rally where I was able to make a dig, and Petra went very wide to get it back over, and it went three or four processions before we hit the winner. The crowd went wild, it was a real celebration, great to be out there and part of the match.

The Ferns trail 3-0 in the series, but have another crack at the hosts on Sunday at 12pm NZ time in Los Andes.

"There's one word for touring life - busy! We're so grateful for the support here and at home," said Lilly Zwart.

Big step up for Ferns in game two

Chile 3 (25-18, 25-12 and 25-17) New Zealand 0, Iquique

The tourists took a big step up, matching Chile point for point at times in game two.

The Ferns started strongly and matched Chile on the scoreboard up until the 20 point mark in the first set.

"It was an improvement from yesterday - we had a different strategy on defence, and overall the performance was really strong. We also tried some new ideas on the attack, and we were able to execute well," said the Ferns' Holly Chandler.

The Ferns scrambled well on defence with Stacey Niao outstanding, getting multiple one on one blocks. The team showed some strong attack in patches but lost a few points in runs at times, which was the difference.

"The crowd was huge, but they were supporting both teams! It was a great atmosphere, and they really enjoyed the great volleyball that was being played," said Holly Chandler.

"This is such a cool experience in Chile, the locals love the game. It's really exciting to see people so supportive, there's so much love!"

The Ferns trail 2-0 in the series and will meet Chile in game three at the same venue at 12pm NZ time on Friday.

Tough test first up for Volley Ferns

The Volley Ferns have gone down 3-0 (25-12, 25-10 and 25-16) to a strong Chilean team in the first game of their series in Rancagua. 

The home side came out firing with a big, noisy crowd cheering them on, in an incredible atmosphere.

Watch a replay of Ferns v Chile match one

Ferns skipper Petra Manderson said "We had some good patches in the match, and will certainly take a lot of positives.. We had a great first set, and the energy on the court was a big step up from training. The jet lag has worn off a bit and we put some good phases together."

This tour was a step into the unknown for the Ferns, and came up against a Chilean team featuring players with professional experience, and a clinical edge.

Young setter Kalea Norton, a year 12 student at Auckland's Rangitoto College, had a strong debut, taking great options, and the team were satisfied with their passing game overall.

"Just travelling and being in a new country together has brought the team closer together. There's certainly an age gap between the older and younger team members, but we're blending together nicely," said Manderson.

"There are always things we can learn and work on - defensive positioning, and just getting to know the players we're facing. It's going to be a fantastic series."

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