Small Nations Finals Andorra- May 2011
Having spent a few days reflecting on the performances and results from Andorra I am genuinely very happy with what we achieved. Now to clarify losing three games and finishing fourth was not the result many in Scotland would want to see or perhaps expect; but to quote a line from Hollywood “….sometimes when you win you lose and sometimes when you lose you actually win!”
In preparation for going to Andorra we highlighted the need to play the key points better, to show more composure and make better decisions when under pressure. This, for me, was the key to moving the team forward and challenging the likes of Luxembourg and Cyprus, and it worked……..Almost!
Scotland vs. Luxembourg (2-3 25:21 22:25 25:23 9:25 8:15)
Ultimately we came up short against Luxembourg but in the first 3 sets we played very good Volleyball and the level was a great advert for the Small Nations. Stuart Edgar was unstoppable and contributed 22 points in the match, Ali Galloway and Niall Collins also were playing aggressively and proving too much for the Luxembourg defence. All of this was possible from the passing from Mike Penny and Barry McGuigan. From a defensive point of view Ruari Isted led the team in Blocks with five, things were looking good!
The fourth set was bizarre, Luxembourg made 10 of their 21 blocks against us and we simply could not put the ball on the floor whilst stuck in a weak rotation. At 11-3 down I pulled the players to give them a chance to regroup for the inevitable 5th set.
In the 5th set we started better and were apparently over the aberration of the previous set. However a contentious referee call and two net faults saw us turn at 8-3 down and that was that.
After the game Burkhard, the Luxembourg coach, highlighted the improvements the team had made since January when we lost 3-0. For me to win these matches we first have to put ourselves in the position to compete and take sets. This we did and for most of the first 3 sets we outplayed Luxembourg, the next step is to find a way to win.
Scotland vs. Andorra (0-3 23:25 16:25 21:25)
With the draw the way it was we only has four hours to regroup before playing the hosts. We were always going to be up against it after the mental and physical rollercoaster that was the Luxembourg game.
The first set was always going to be key! With a 25-23 loss you could see the energy ebb away from the players and the Andorrans grow in confidence. Led by a genuinely world class libero, Garcia ensured that even Scotland’s best serves and hits were passed close to the setter.
We lost this game on block defence, whilst Andorra made close to twenty transition points we made nine. This was disappointing as we had worked very hard on this aspect.
On a positive note we passed 2.7 and this game saw the emergence of Jamie McHardy as one of the future stars of the Scottish game, though he has a way to go I was very impressed with his attitude throughout the tournament.
Scotland vs. Cyprus (0-3 20:25 16:25 22:25)
Cyprus are always the yard stick by which the Small Nations teams are aspiring to and again they won the tournament, but this was slightly different in that the aura of invincibility was gone, they looked fragile in a couple of positions and the Scottish players seemed to recognise this in our match. Despite going 5-0 down in the first set the Cypriots never broke our spirit and we played some really good Volleyball, especially in the 3rd set where we were in the position to win. As I said to the players afterwards standing on the brink of excellence can be scary: players need to be brave and believe that they are capable of achieving the unexpected.
The highlight of this game for me was Alan Krawczyk’s performance it was everything that we had been working towards in practice and decision making and delivery was on the whole superb, he gave the hitters the platform to express speed and power which for much of this match was as good as we have played as a group. No doubt that despite the loss the team has moved forward on the back of this game.
Scotland vs. Iceland (3-0 25:23 25:22 28:26)
This game was now for the wooden spoon and Iceland’s results to this point had them ahead of us in the table.
From a players point of view this was Brian O’Neill’s last game and I wanted the win for him; Brian has been absolutely superb for me not only on the court but the way he looked out for and supported the players, especially the debutants and juniors joining the squad for the first time. I would like to publically thank him for his service to Scottish Volleyball.
There was a lot on this game and when we executed the match plan we played really well and we were comfortable but I was amazed how often the players would change what was being successful because it seemed too easy, four or five time in this match Iceland came back from a deficit because we lost discipline on our match plan. This was frustrating but on reflection it was more important that we kept our composure and won the close sets that for so long we have managed to lose. This we did extremely well especially in the third when we were twice set points down.
This tournament was indeed disappointing in terms of results but individual and team performances at various times throughout the competition were far from disappointing. I was once again incredibly impressed with the attitude and application of my team.
Off the court special thanks should go to Steve Scott and Kenny Watt who looked after the players incredibly well and finally to Iain Parker, who now leaves the Senior programme to lead the Junior programme, I really appreciate your help and calming influence on me and the team.
Head Coach Scotland Volleyball Team