A fantastic end to the first half of the season

Saturday 8th December  2012

Bellshill Cardinals  V  Su Ragazzi II

Su II just squeeze it……

Going into this match Bellshill were sitting top of the table, unbeaten in the first half of the season,  and hadn’t lost a set.  These numbers did not flatter them.  Bellshill are full of experienced players, who have been at or near the top of the second Division for years.  They understand the game, how to play it, when to push and when to play careful, their top of the table position is warranted , and they easily won the first set.  

We played well and made mistakes, too many mistakes.  We controlled the ball to go into transition….and made mistakes.  We won the side-out and went back to serve….and made mistakes.  Bellshill played the percentages, they didn’t make mistakes, and were happy enough at the 25 – 17 scoreline.

We are a team with a number of young players.  They are talented, but they need to learn how to play the game.  It’s not about looking for a string of ‘fantastic plays’, it is about making the systems work.  It’s about doing your job.  It’s about winning the main battles…..in the second set we made less mistakes, and we won the serve-pass battle.  It was close, Bellshill fought hard, but we took the set 25 – 22.

The success should have set the tone for the third set, but it didn’t.  We should have learned a lesson from the first set, but we didn’t.  Bellshill make you play for every point.  They make every rally a marathon, they demand that you pay attention in all phases of the game.  In set three we didn’t live with them.  They served tougher, they were more clever in their hitting, and we were back to making too many mistakes.  The scoreline of 25-19 was about right.

In the between-set huddle there were some tough words exchanged.  Young players are full of energy, but the game demands that energy is always accompanied by clear thinking.  We wanted to win, we knew there was a chance that we could be successful, and we were ready to work really really hard to make that happen, but the game was demanding that as well as working hard we also needed to play clever.

In the fourth set we did.  

Marc McLaughlin began to set the team system, and the spikers thrived on his delivery.  Chris de Lattre stepped up a gear, and was devastating in the front court.  Our passers began to function as a unit, and Captain Gordon McGilvrey was simply outstanding.  We took an early lead, with some tough serving, they fought back and through various twists and turns it was 23 all.   Bellshill called on all of their experience, but it didn’t help them when Gordie ‘roofed’ their zone 4 spiker.  They played with as much power and clarity as they could muster, but it didn’t help them when Gordie smashed his transition hit onto the floor.  25-23 for us!

It was nail biting stuff for the small but noisy and enthusiastic crowd.  

In the fifth set it was nip and tuck….2 each, 4 each, 7 each, and then we squeezed into  a two point lead.  We were playing the game.  We were managing the stresses of the competition.  We were doing our jobs with clarity and purpose, and they took a time out at 10 – 8 for us. In the huddle we talked of the opportunity that we had made for ourselves.  Players can learn lots of things in practise, but learning to win only happens on the match court.  This day, we took a major step by winning this set 15 – 11.  After the time out we grabbed the game by the scruff of its neck, and played a series of controlled power plays to win the match 3-2.

We jumped about a bit after the final whistle, then reflected on what was a mixed performance, but ultimately a fantastic win.  We matched their fighting spirit, but finally played better volleyball than they did – that’s an achievement.  Very well done to all.