What a day it turned to be with NI taking their first squad and development squad for two different matches against the Irish. Both squads were under 16 with the development squad being made up of girls between 14 and 15.
The first game brought an absolute spectacle for volleyball spectators at the venue. The game eventually ran out 3-2 to Ireland after some strong serving from them in the fifth and deciding set. The first set went to the NI girls who ran out the set easily and took their opponents somewhat by surprise. In the second and third sets Ireland found their feet and with very strong serving they put our girls under a lot of reception pressure. However there were notable defensive performances by NI Libero Alice Harkness and with the captaincy and strong serving of Lucy Joyce the NI girls came from 24-19 behind to win the fourth set 26-24. The supporters were ecstatic and many of them on their feet and the façade of the game totally transformed with all to play for in the deciding set. NI continued to make good use of outsider players Lauren Ramage, Tara Nicholl and Sorcha Maguire who made her debut at only 13 years old. Middles Rebecca Rankin and Rebecca Allister also performed well with Jessica Currie backing up. Head Coach Ian Walker said “our girls performed excellently today and put up a great fight against very strong serving which we expected from Ireland. This match was just what we needed as service reception has been something that we have worked on quite a bit and our opposition have been training hard for the European Small Nations. Our attack was also strong and despite a frustrating game for Emily Morrison she held her nerve extremely well to set up a strong attack on many occasions. The game offered us a good experience leading up to future events.”
In the second game the NI Development squad produced another special performance against other players from the Ireland Squad taking their game to a deciding third set (Best of three this time). Several players made their international debut in this match including Megan De-Jode, Caroline Goodliffe, Captain Kerry Kirkpatrick, Tara Nicholl (Who also played in the previous game), Libero Charlotte Boyd, Chloe McDowell and Caoimhe McKusker.
We would like to wish Marie Sheridan and her Ireland Squad all the best for the U19 European Small Nations and thank them all very much for their hospitality on a special day.