Staring into the Abyss

Match day 4 of the 2012/13 National League season
Saturday 3rd November  2012

Su Ragazzi (ladies)  V  Aberdonia

Staring into the abyss……….

Aberdonia are in their first season in the top division, so the Fabulous Suettes had never played them before.  We hadn’t scouted them, we hadn’t received match reports on them, we did not know what to expect, which was partly why we stood staring into the abyss of a 16 – 22 deficit, in double quick time in the first set.

Aberdonia are a very tall side.  They do not have any great level of sophistication to the way they structure their game, but they do serve very tough, and hit the ball very hard!  They serve really tough (did I say that already?)

The first set started with the Suettes fielding a changed line up, with Marketa Hola reclaiming a starting slot as the power hitter.  Aberdonia pinned her back with their howitzer services, and Marketa’s confidence took some pretty hard knocks as the pressure was relentlessly piled on.  

Coach John French asked for more clarity in the home team’s performance.  He talked in the time outs of the need for better targeting, and more movement in the offence, and the bombardment from the Aberdonia side continued.  We were behind at both technical times outs, and it was beginning to look like an exercise of ‘fire fighting’ as other parts of the Suettes’ units began to lose their shape.  It was frustrating, it was divisive, it was fragmenting our game, and the score said it was 16 – 22 in favour of the team from the North.

John French changed setters.  Priya Gill is a junior player in her first year of setter’s training.  She is making terrific progress, and has a very strong competitive spirit, but at 16 – 22 down with the game plan in tatters, was this a situation she could cope with?  Was this just a ‘delaying tactic’ from the home side Coach?  Priya changed the game!

At the same time as Priya was introduced the team’s game plan was changed.  We were being bombarded with seriously tough serves, and not responding in kind – so we set about doing so.  Captain Jillian Galloway stood at the base line and ‘hammered’ the ball at the Aberdonia players, and the tide started to turn.

We didn’t’ think about winning the match, just about serving tough and passing well.  The points looked after themselves, helped by the clarity in the setting of the inexperienced Priya.  The team began to reclaim it’s shape, the different units began to function with more purpose, Carly and Mhairi in the middle blocker slots began to feature in the game, and the exchanges balanced out a little, and without knowing how it happened the first set points gap began to shrink.

We didn’t think about winning the set, until the scores levelled at 24 points a-piece.  By then the Aberdonia side were stressed.  The 22- 16 points difference was a set winning scoreline.  Their well executed game plan had been hugely successful, they were well on top, how could that have changed so dramatically?   But change it did, and when we scored the 26th point to win the set, our troops jumped about for a bit in celebration.

Set 2 we never looked back.  Kirsty McLean played her best game of the season by a country mile, Jillian Galloway continued to thunder her serves, Marketa made some crucial hits, Mhairi is a blocking machine, and the set was over at 25 – 21 for us.

Aberdonia were more focused in the third set.  Their game expanded as they passed better and played some excellent first tempo attacks.  We stuttered slightly in the middle of the set, lost focus a little, forgot the clarity of the message of winning the serve-pass battle, but we also demonstrated some real character to come through this spell and win the set 25 – 21 to claim the match 3 – 0.

We had a full squad at this game with 12 players on the scoresheet.  Priya was the only substitution, so a number of players had the very difficult task of watching the match unfold, and having their hopes of playing not realised.  And in this match the bench were a constant source of encouragement for the players on court.  They cheered, they supported, they offered encouragement and advice, and after the match winning point they flooded onto the court and jumped about in celebration of the success.

So, the first set abyss wasn’t so scary after all…….well done to Jillian and her team for a great comeback and an excellent win.