The 2010/11 season of “meet me at the net” kicked-off on Saturday 10 October with the SVA being forced to run their bench right from the start. With Sandra Grubb indisposed it fell to me as President to fill her shoes for the planned trip to the west coast to meet with Troon, Prestwick and Ayr. I’m not normally shy for a quote, but this turn of events left me with little to say other than “Get well soon Sandra”.
And what a busy day it was for my visit to Belmont Academy, probably the only Scottish venue hosting 4 Schelde Sports National League matches one after another. This would be a frightening prospects for most clubs, but it was nothing unusual for this volleyball ‘hotspot’. Indeed things were nearly as busy the following day, with “Troon” hosting a further 3 JNL matches. You almost need a calculator to work out that this club boasts a healthy 7 teams regularly competing in national competitions.
I guess that most readers of this article will be familiar with this club, which is particularly well known for the success that the women’s first team have enjoyed in recent years. They regularly compete for cup honours, have never failed to make the Play-Off finals and have been Scotland’s only hosts for a round of the European Cup. This on-court success has had a huge influence in the growth of the club, which now has two senior teams for both men and women. What is also clear when first walking into the venue is the very healthy representation of junior players and the fact that these youngsters are so well represented in all squads. Troon does have a wealth of experience in players such as Gillian Lyall, Vince Krawczyk and Mike Heaney, but young players feature in every ingle team in the club, building the ethos that hard work and talent will be rewarded and the obvious attitude that “if you’re good enough, you’re old enough”.
The featured match of the day saw youth continue to feature predominantly as the Men’s first team, with several fresh faces, took on Edinburgh Jets in a 1st Division clash. That the Troon men were playing in the first division was still hot news as they had only found out just over a week before that this was their fate for the season. The team had been relegated by the narrowest of margins at the end of 2009/10 and were looking forward to a year of rebuilding in the second division. Then, just hours before the first league match of the new season, the news broke that Team Fife had folded and that a replacement squad was needed to fill the fixture card. Step forward Troon, Prestwick and Ayr.
Having taken a set from the first league game against Kilmarnock Blaze the young team hoped to build on this early promise and looked forward to the prospect of recording a first home win. The match of the day started at a fairly intense pace which saw a controversial yellow card being shown early on to Jets’ Matt Kiefer for some overly enthusiastic words, but this seemed merely to spur the visitors on to take the first set 18:25. If anything Jets then looked even stronger in the second set, which they took comfortably. Troon then showed great composure and rallied for a keenly contested third set where the gap seldom grew beyond a few points to either team. With Troon on the ascendancy and the set all square at 23:23 it could have gone either way, but the visitors from the capital proved too strong at the business end of the set and ran out worthy winners by 3:0 (18-25, 16-25, 23-25). This result didn’t seem to dent the enthusiasm of the home team who remain delighted to be playing at the highest level, indeed the faces of the whole squad lit up when they learned that their youngest player, 16 year-old Calum Gwynne, had been awarded my vote as Man-Of-The-Match.
It was my genuine pleasure to make the trip down the A77 to Ayr and to witness the enthusiasm and passion of one of our larger volleyball clubs and it was really great to see so many smiling faces.