Aztecs Warriors hosted top of the table Ballymoney Blaze with both teams on the same points it was Ballymoney with a better set difference which made both teams eager to win and clinch the top spot.
The start of the 1st set went Ballymoney’s way with Aztecs not showing their form that had conquered their previous opponents. At the same time Ballymoney came out flying with smart setting from the side they were able to fiercely attack the Aztecs defences and take control of the set. Aztecs late on, began to slowly get themselves back into the set with everyone playing their own game, this lead to the Aztecs defences to finally get setter Graham Bell to pick and choose where the ball should go which was met by vicious hitting from Colin Kirkland, Ryan Agnew and Nicholas Kerr but the comeback was 3 points short with the set going into Blaze’s favour with the set finishing 22- 25.
The second set saw the Aztecs side bring on Mark Brown for Jordan Watson, with both teams eager to get this set on the way it was Aztecs who began to take an early commanding lead with Graham Bell again able to pop the ball anywhere on court thanks to accurate passing from Ashley Tsang and Ryan Agnew which was then met by Mark Brown to smash the ball down onto Ballymoney’s side. Aztecs had developed a 5 point gap and to their surprise Blaze started to up the tempo by turning to experience rather than power. The side began to expose the home side’s weaknesses and unmarked areas with smart tipping and rolling which enabled them to take the lead. Aztecs were determined to get ahead and even the score and so they too upped the tempo of the game and thanks to gutsy defensive play from Colin Kirkland and Nicholas Kerr their efforts were equalled by the rest of the team which allowed Aztecs to take the lead. As Aztecs were at match point and had a solid 5 points lead the home side seemed to switch off with Blaze taking advantage of this they were able to get within two points behind Aztecs. Aztecs knowing one point would equal the game switched back on. The set finally ended thanks to a solid pass from Ashley Tsang which allowed Graham Bell and Colin Kirkland to finish it off with an attack through the middle. The set finishing 25 – 23.
The third set saw both teams feeling the heat knowing this was a must win game with Ballymoney wanting it a lot more than the home side in this set. Both teams at some stage of the set had a strong lead and both teams also lost their leads. The third set began in favour of Aztecs thanks to passing from Mark Brown and Nicholas Kerr which again allowed setter Graham Bell to find Ryan Agnew and Ashley Tsang to shatter the away side’s defences. Just like the second set Aztecs again shut down and Blaze took advantage with their defence always meeting the end of Aztecs attack which enabled Ballymoney to attack the home side’s defences and saw Aztecs making numerous errors which cost them the lead. Ballymoney with a commanding lead had Aztecs calling a time out to think of a way to get back into the game. The time out seemed useful as Aztecs were able to get themselves back into the set with solid hitting from Ryan Agnew and Mark Brown but the home sides efforts were a tad late with Blaze winning the set 22 – 25.
The fourth set had the Home side mix things up in order to get back into the game. It seemed to have worked with Aztecs showing the same class as in previous games. The home side seemed to command the set throughout thanks to passing from Graham Bell and Ryan Agnew which allowed setter Ashley Tsang to locate hitters Colin Kirkland, Nicholas Kerr and Mark Brown in which they ended the play by hammering the ball over the net with Blazes defences not being able to cope.
Blaze with their never say quit attitudes were never too far behind in the set but as the set went on it seemed Blaze had switched off and this was punished by Graham Bell who smashed back court balls into the away side’s unmarked areas. As the set moved around Blaze started to produce a nice rhythm of points thanks to the side’s defences which allowed their attack to attack Aztecs defences. Late substitute Jordan Watson ended the away side’s hopes of winning the set and the game thanks to his defensive passing, this was followed by setting from Ashley Tsang that set up Colin Kirkland and Ryan Agnew to smash through Blazes defences and win the set. 25 – 19.
The final set saw Aztecs winning the toss and opting to serve. With the late departure of Ryan Agnew it was Jordan Watson who filled the empty space in which he never disappointed. With both teams felling the pressure it was Aztecs with the Adrenaline from the last set still pumping took the lead and established it thanks to passing from Jordan Watson and Mark Brown which allowed setter Ashley Tsang to find hitters Graham Bell, Nicholas Kerr and Colin Kirkland, they made no mistake in finding the floor of the away side’s territory by smashing the ball down the middle and line areas.
Aztecs after the switch kept control of the game thanks to over the top roll hitting down the line from Nicholas Kerr. This was equalled by the rest of the team as they all seemed to produce, with Mark Brown and Graham Bell continuing to pass well which allowed Ashley Tsang to also continue fine setting to Colin Kirkland and Jordan Watson who also found the floor. Ballymoney Blaze started to dig deep to try and get back into the set but their efforts were deemed too late with Aztecs winning the set 15 – 9 and the game 3 sets to 2.
Aztecs would like thank referees James Kane and Steven Irwin as well as scores Sarah Gilpin and Nicole Davidson.
A special thank you to those who came down to support the team, it’s much appreciated.