The 22nd/23rd October saw the Shield host the second Sydney derby for week 4 of the Australian Volleyball League.
The Shield ladies were coming off a tough road trip to QLD and were looking to turn their 2016 season around. The Amazons had been taken some time off after playing the Shield in week 1.
The Shield women came up against a highly experienced and skillful team in the Amazons. The first game was up and down, with two of the sets being held strongly by the Amazons. It was the second set, however, that showed the worth of each team, with it going down to the wire 26-24. The Shield women showed immense fortitude to come back in this set and keep plugging away at the significantly more highly fancied Amazon team.
Coach Yaegan took some positives, but was looking to put the game behind them
“The Amazons got the better of us today and gave us very little to work with. I was immensely pleased with how the team held themselves together to deliver a very strong performance in the second, but unfortunately, the blowout in the third set has left us a little disappointed. Tomorrow is a new day, and I am very confident our young players can push back much harder.”
Shield ladies repelling an Amazons attack
The Shield men were also coming off a tough road trip were they had been beaten by the strong Pirates team, but knew they were coming into this game 2:0 from week 1 against the Warriors. The Warriors hadn’t played since that week 1 encounter.
UTSSU got off to a slow start, with 17 year old Alex Lyndon promoted to starting setter, showing some early nerves. He quickly found his groove and spread the attack well. UTSSU lead throughout the set and were rarely troubled by the warriors throughout the rest of the game and had a comfortable 3:0 win (25-15, 25-17, 25-14)
Coach Nam Pham was “pleased with the win. We need to tighten up in several areas, but our young team certainly stuck to the game plan and generally executed their skills well.” When asked about the loss of the two senior setters for the first game, coach Pham was very upbeat: “The injury to veteran setter, Keith Suckling was a blessing in disguise, which has given Alex Lyndon this huge opportunity. Alex has certainly taken his opportunity and has proven that potentially he is one of the best young setters in the country.”
Alex running the offense
The Shield women came into day 2 keen to improve of their showing the day before, and perhaps looking to quiet the Amazons coach.
Following the strong performance by the Amazons in the first game, the second match was a complete turnaround, with the UTSSU Shield women’s team pushing the Amazons all the way to five. With many of the UTSSU players having never started an AVL match before this season, the team showed vast maturity beyond their years to pick themselves up from Saturday’s loss and consistently attack the enormously more seasoned Amazon team. With an average age of 20 and significantly less experience than the Amazons who boast multiple international players, some with Olympic experience, and a number of AVL medalists in previous years with other Sydney clubs, the UTSSU women fought and fought to take the third and fourth sets, and to control most of the fifth to take the game to the tightest possible margin.
Despite the 15-13 loss in the 5th set, Coach Yaegan was very proud of his players.
“This is a team that New South Wales can be proud of. It is a team of players, most of whom have come through the NSW junior ranks, that are having their first fully fledged shot at the top level. And today, they showed they deserved to be here. Moreover they emphasized that they will be huge force as we go forward. A handful of players in particular deserve special mention – Kateia Barenaba at 17 years old outfought and outlasted her opposition players, some of whom were over double her age and had played longer than she had been alive, and Kristina Knezović and Laura Reeks played out of their skin, showing up a number of players of whom they had performed understudy duties in previous years. Although we didn’t get the win, the performance we showed today emphasises that our NSW grown talent has a very bright future. Today the two teams were very equal, but if you compare the trajectories of each team, we are on the way up.”
Some support from the Shield men helped the Shield ladies take it to 5
After raucously supporting the Shield ladies through their game, the Shield men were in good spirits for their game against the Shield men and were looking to complete the sweep.
Day two, saw an almost identical result to the UTSSU Shield. The Warriors looked a little deflated and UTSSU took control of the game from the start and led throughout. Some solid attack through the middle by birthday boy, Jed Favel saw him amass 20 kills from 30 swings with only 2 errors. Lewis Jupp had another solid game at opposite with some great kills and huge blocks. UTSSU took the game comfortably 3:0 (25-15, 25-14, 25-17). UTSSU now head into their bye round with 5 wins 3 losses.
Coach Nam Pham was “pleased to see that we could back up and execute a game plan on consecutive days. We have had a focus on playing with a positive attitude and focusing on 3 or 4 key aspects each game. The boys certainly look fitter and stronger than previous years and are able to play with the same intensity across the whole weekend – this is something we have been lacking for several years now.”
Lewis killing it on the outside
The Shield teams now have the next weekend off before they travel to Canberra to take on the Heat on the 5th/6th November.