It was Sunday afternoon at the PEC in Belfast and the stage was set for the Northern Ireland Intervarsity Match to decide who would progress to the round of 16 in the BUCS Championship. The was an air of anticipation on both sides and some scores to be settled after the routing the University of Ulster men gave Queen’s on their last encounter in the semi-finals of the All Ireland Intervarsities just two short months ago.
The adrenaline was already pumping when it was discovered that a certain sleepy Elk who was the driver for a car load of players who would line up on opposite sides of the net was discovered to still be sleeping 50 minutes before warm up… in Portadown! Thankfully all parties arrived on time and both teams were raring to go by the end of the warm up with intent shown by both sides.
The game opened with both Ulster and Queen’s showing some tentative play and was perhaps an indication of how the break from training and an excess of turkey dinners during the Christmas holidays was hampering this show piece of scholastic volleyball. Both sides started to loosen up and get into their stride with Doherty and Gouveia both bringing the best out of their offensive lines with some fantastic placement of the ball. At 12 – 12 the stalemate was finally broken with John Robb lining up on the service line for QUB. His no-nonsense serving approach allowed the Queen’s blockers to make the game their own with blocks from Crooks and Irwin stopping Ulster in their tracks. Excellent defensive was shown by Ulster libero James Kane but it wasn’t enough to halt the march of opposite Brettschneider as the score reached 23 – 13. From there the set was all but over and it was advantage to the hosts at 1 – 0 up.
The second set started similarly with both teams trading points with Ulster wing hitters Cousins and Barrett delivering the goods at will thanks to great serving from Doherty down to some inspired serve reception from their passing unit, it was a beautiful display of simple side out volleyball with Queen’s struggling to emulate it on the other side of the net. The passing of the home side was tanking in the second set with Crooks struggling to control the serves of the opposition in his new role at passer hitter. This along with hitting errors of all of the Queen’s players was really hampering their ability to compete as the score reached 23 – 19 in the Elk’s favour. A necessary timeout was taken and the home side took stock of their situation knowing that they had precious little chance to take the set but vowed to leave it all out on the court. A fine display of volleyball from the Queen’s lads and another serving showcase from Robb left the hosts 2 sets up in the space of 6 unanswered points at 25 – 19.
In the third and what was to be the final set the boys from QUB full-of-confidence took complete charge of the set and opened up an early lead with powerful serving from Scott, and from then on in there was a sense that it was all but over. Although there was a spirited attempt on the Ulster side of the net it was all too little too late whenever their play really put Queen’s on the backfoot. This made the finish a great fight to the end as the UU men were in no mood to let Queen’s simply take the title and made every point a real battle despite the match eventually ending in Queen’s favour.
Teh teams were;
Queens: Crooks (C), Scott, Gouveia, Irwin, Schaper, Brettschneider, Robb.
Ulster: Barrett (C), Doherty, Robb, Kane, Cousens, Kunz, Grieve.
For more information on British Universities Colleges Sport Volleyball including Championship fixtures and resultsgo to: http://www.bucs.org.uk/page.asp?section=15770§ionTitle=Championships