Lisburn Lynx Volleyball Club recently won the 2011 Northern Ireland Men’s Cup, making it a double winning season for them having also being crowned National League Champions. Head Coach Chris Grant was able to field his strongest team, and at times had to rely on the vast experience of some of his players to carry the team through some tricky rallies. Good wins against Blaze 2nds and North Down allowed the team to gel nicely and although team captain Crooks was unable to play in these early rounds, Pilch filled the opposite hitter role superbly.
A quarter final match-up with Queen’s was always going to be tricky as several of their players had played for Lynx earlier in the season. However they were unable to cope with the vicious serving and blocking displayed by Lynx, particularly by Hamilton and Plinski. Lynx setter Abdulhamid was also on top form, and found his attackers regularly and consistently, especially Oshoke whose hitting through the middle was outstanding. Young Lynx libero Clarke also had a great game despite landing heavily on his elbow in getting up a seemingly lost ball.
The win against Queen’s set Lynx up a with semi-final match against Ballymoney Blaze, a team who had been riding high in the league until losing one of their star players in January. The teams traded points until the mid stages of the sets when the Lynx attacking stepped up a gear and vicious hits from Pilch, Plinski and Fabian were unstoppable. Superb blocking from Oshoke and Pilch helped to rack up the points and Lynx won the game to proceed to the final against Richhill Raiders.
Having just pipped Raiders to the National league title, Lynx knew it was going to be a tough match and with many of their supporters there, they were determined to put on a good show of fast, aggressive volleyball. The teams were very even throughout the first set with neither team getting a decisive lead. Lynx’s Hamilton, Oshoke and Plinski scored many hits and Hamilton especially was incredible in the block. It was only at the very end of the set when Raiders missed a few crucial serves that Lynx were able to win the first set on a Hamilton block.
The second set was again relatively close until the mid-point of the set when Raiders got their serving and blocking together. Lynx were always playing catch-up from then on but came pretty close with some more aggressive defence by young libero Clarke and sensible attacking from Abdulhamid, Hamilton and Crooks.
With it all to do in the third set, Lynx knew they had to go up a gear and with a tactical substitute, Nemeth came in and made some superb blocks. This seemed to galvanise the Lynx side who from then on could not make a wrong move. Serving, blocking, setting, attacking and defence all flowed smoothly and many aggressive hits were unplayable by the Raiders defence. Lynx went on to win the set and therefore the NIVA Cup in front of many ecstatic supporters.
Head Coach Chris Grant said after the match, “The atmosphere today was unbelievable. We knew we would be in for a tight game and it proved to be so. However I was amazed at how well we kept cool heads, played tightly as a team and were aggressive in all aspects of our game. Too add the Cup to our National League title in our inaugural year is an immense achievement. However we will not rest on this as we want to do well in the Celtic Cup and are already planning for next season.”