As the wind and snow swirled outside Laurelhill Community College in Lisburn on Saturday evening, Lisburn Lynx and Ulster Elks battled it out on court to decide who would take home the points in this crucial league mid-point match. With both teams fielding strong squads and with old rivalries running deep, all involved knew it was going to be a fiercely contested match with pride meaning as much as the points at stake.
The rapidly dipping temperature outside did not seem to effect performance and after a thunderous warm-up, both teams took to the court ready for the first whistle. The teams traded points early on but serving errors from Lynx and clever attacking from Elks allowed them to build a lead halfway through the set. However after a time-out, Lynx battled back to even the scores, then went ahead through deadly wing attacks from Oshoke and good setting placement from Gouveia. However Lynx’s concentration dipped again and Elks were able to take the first set 25-22 despite their wing hitter Cousins suffering from an eye injury from an immense Pilch attack.
This seemed to shock the Lynx team and they came on for set two with a completely different attitude. Everything they tried seemed to produce the desired results and replacement setter Abdulhamid made his mark early on with a string of incredible overhead sets to opposite Crooks. Pilch too was a driving force in the match both front and back court as was middle Brettschneider who blocked immensely. With their Libero still out after an operation Lynx had to be aggressive back court and Oshoke and Pilch definitely stepped up to the mark. Fabian too got in on the act and picked up some scrappy balls which Abdulhamid was able to convert into points. Head Coach Chris Grant said after the match that this was the best set of volleyball his team had played so far this season, and they ran out 25-14 set winners.
With the teams now even again, it was anyone’s game, but Lynx came out fighting hardest to build up an early lead. Middle attacker Borowiecki produced some impressive blocks and again Pilch ruled the back court. Crooks and Brettschneider served consistently and aggressively and put the Elks reception under severe pressure. However Elks setter Doherty regularly found his Captain and opposite attacker Wright who led the Elks attack, scoring a run of points off the Lynx block. This allowed the two teams to become even again towards the latter parts of the set and it was down to who wanted it most as to who would win. As with the second set, Lynx showed their class and determination over the last 5 points and pulled off a 25-21 set win.
With both teams now giving it all in the fourth set, it proved to be an exciting and pretty even affair with both teams training points and errors right up until the late-teen stage of the set. More defensive plays by Pilch and un-returnable attacks from Brettschneider and Oshoke galvanized the Lynx team and although they gave up too many points with blocking errors, they kept their spirits high and ran out 25-22 set winners and with it won the match 3-1.
Head Coach Chris Grant said after the match, “This was our hardest test so far this season but I was absolutely delighted with how my team responded to the pressure Elks put them under and how we transitioned successfully from defence to attack. We face more tricky teams over the next few weeks so I’m glad we proved to ourselves we can put up a fight when the going doesn’t always go our way!”
Lisburn Lynx would like to thank the referees Paddy Elder and Mark White, to scorers Callum Currie and Irena Mihneva and to Laurelhill Community College.