Seoul, South Korea, June 16, 2018 - Australia made it three in a row at the FIVB Volleyball Nations League with a 3-1 (25-27, 41-39, 29-27, 25-21) victory over China that again showcased the wiles of their skipper Paul Carroll, who chimed in with a match-best 31 points.
The Aussies seemed spurred into action by a marathon 41-39 second set that saw points ebb and flow across 47 minutes before they prevailed - and then set about claiming the two more sets needed for victory. As he had been the night before against South Korea, the 32-year-old Carroll was a rock at opposite spiker, with 28 kills (from an impressive 45 attempts) helping add to his collection of points.
Wing spiker Jordan Richards (23 points) was also in fine form, as was middle blocker Nehemiah Mote whose 12 points featured four blocks.
China had played around with the starting line-up that suffered a 3-1 result against Italy the night before. They ground out the first set, then kept pace with the Australians during that marathon second but struggled by the last. Best for them on the afternoon was wing spiker Liu Libin, with 21 points that included a match-high seven blocks.
The last time these teams had met was in the World League in Kunshan in June of last year - a match the Chinese won 3-1 - and they both arrived in Seoul for the VNL's fourth round having struggled so far throughout the tournament.
The bright spark for the Aussies was the fact they had won their previous two VNL matches - 3-2 against Germany at the end of the last round on June 10 and a 3-1 win over the hosts South Korea on Friday night.
For the Chinese the VNL has so far been all about the form of opposite spiker Chuan Jiang, who came into Saturday afternoon's encounter leading all scorers for the tournament with 193 points.
But China coach Raul Lozano chose to leave his star out of the lineup against Australia - a surprise but maybe also a reflection of the high intensity of play these teams have all produced so far. There's little doubt the Chinese felt the loss, however.
China fell to 2-9 with the loss and will be hoping to add to Saturday's success in their final match against host South Korean while the Australians (4-7) will face an Italian team (7-4) aiming for a clean sweep of their fourth-round matches.