With victories in sets 1 (25-18), 2 (25-17), and 4 (25-14), the Fiji Men’s Volleyball team bounced back from their 1-3 loss to reigning Pacific Games Gold Medallist Tahiti in their opening game yesterday to secure their first win, 3-1 over American Samoa today.
The win not only marked their first in the competition but also guaranteed their passage to the quarterfinals with two games to go at the 17th Pacific Games currently underway in Honiara, Solomon Islands.
American Samoa made a strong comeback in the third set 25-18, but Fiji had built a formidable lead to ensure their qualification for the quarterfinals.
Reflecting on the previous day’s loss to Tahiti, the team’s coach Tevita Leweituitovo sees it as a blessing in disguise.
“After that tough game against Tahiti, we realised we could compete at that level,” Leweituitovo said.
One player who stood out amidst the challenges was the eldest on the team, Qilu Elliot at 39. Despite doubts about his inclusion, the Lautoka-based outside hitter, three-time Pacific Games rep, and team vice-captain showcased his skills and proved his worth.
“I feel the player that stood out because people thought he couldn’t make the team was probably the eldest in the team, Elliot. Age is just a number; if you can make a difference, you have a place on this team.”
In terms of player selection, the coach shared, “I am a fair man, and I have given a fair indication of how Volleyball for the next couple of years will be running. Regardless of lifestyle or age, if you can make the point, you can become part of the team.”
The inclusion of new talent, including Pacific Games debutants in middle blocker Joji Katia, 24, utility left-hander 22-year-old Tito Mairewa, and 24-year-old Peter Sorby, has injected a renewed sense of hunger and adaptability into the squad.
“These new players are hungry, good players, and are good listeners. They play well and have adapted, and I think they will go a long way.”
Looking forward to upcoming matches against Papua New Guinea and Tuvalu, the coach underlined the significance of securing at least one win to improve their quarterfinal draws.
“Fiji has made it into the quarterfinals. We just need the next two games for better draws into the quarterfinals.”