Six months of hard work and determination in PE departments around the country came to a successful conclusion last week at the SVA Schools Cup finals, which were held at Coatbridge High School over two action-packed evenings.
There were increased numbers of entries from over 50 schools in the competition this year, which was contested over six age groups. First -time entries were received from places like Dundee HS, Carnoustie and Duncanrig (East Kilbride), while the usual powerhouses at this level, such as Marr College, Stonelaw and Kyle Academy were also well represented.
The SVA introduced a new dimension this year with the first ever Plate section of the Schools Cup for S4/5/6. This washugely successful in terms of matches and players with final games being played by Marr College Vs Belmont Academy (girls) and Kyle Academy Vs Mearns Castle HS (boys). The eventual victors in this competition were Marr College (girls) and Mearns Castle HS (boys).
The first of the main finals paired Mearns Castle HS and Marr College for the P7/S1 girls. The teams traded blows point for point in the early stages,but when Marr College stepped up a gear as the match progressed, Mearns Castle were unable to match them, and Marr College took the silverware in straight sets (25-14; 25-13). Best for Marr were Cori Gwynne and Kirsten Davis, while Raveen Gill was the pick of the Mearns Castle players.
This match was quickly followed up by the S2/S3 girls final, featuring Marr College and Queensferry HS. Queensferry had looked impressive on their way to the final, dropping only nine points in their semi-final win over Belmont House, but it was Marr College who quickly established ascendancy, and led by Marsail Hood, the only survivor of last year’s cup-winning team, Marr had the match wrapped up in double-quick time, winning 25-10; 25-5 to retain the trophy.
The final of the senior girl’s competition was undoubtedly the pick of the pack in terms of finals performances. Stonelaw HS returned with the basis of the team which won the S2/S3 girls title in the inaugural year, augmented by several players with JNL experience. They sped to a commanding 23-11 lead before opponents Carnoustie, appearing in their first final, had a chance to draw breath. A final set score of 25-16 in favour of the Rutherglen-based team boded well for their chances in the best of three sets final.
Whatever was said in the Carnoustie huddle between sets clearly paid dividends, as the Angus unit was a team transformed in the second set. Strong defence and a willingness to use the expanse of the net was the key to Carnoustie levelling the match with a 25-20 scoreline. The match was nip and tuck for much of the deciding set, with both teams now playing their best games, but it was Stonelaw who led 8-7 at the turnaround, and posted a commanding 12-9 lead. Carnoustie called time-out, and once again the huddle paid dividends, this time in spades. Carnoustie captain Nicola McKenzie went to the service line and fired in five consecutive service aces, to break Stonelaw’s hearts and take the cup north of the Tay for this first time.
Two days later it was the turn of the boys to take centre stage. The final of the P7/S1 boy’s event brought together Stonelaw and Ayr’s Kyle Academy. Both teams controlled the ball well in an enthralling match, but it was the whipping service of Kyle’s Euan Cormican which was the key to his team securing the first set 25-11. Both teams changed their entire starting units for the second set, which saw Stonelaw come more into things and pull back form an early 5-11 deficit to tie the match at 20-20. However Kyle held their nerve when it mattered, taking the second set 25-22 to claim the trophy.
One of the quirks of the Scottish Schools cup is that the matches are played over junior height nets, in the case of the S2/S3 boy’s event, at 2.17m. This leads to powerful net play and exciting defence, as the players are able to take advantage of the lower net height to show their attacking prowess. Carluke HS were deprived of the services of main points-winner Jordan Scott with a broken wrist, and it was left to Matthew Berry to carry the weight of the attack for the Lanarkshire team. Meanwhile opponents Marr College were led at the net by the hard-hitting Cammy Watson. Both players put in an outstanding offensive display, ably backed by their team-mates.
Carluke took the first set 25-20, and Marr levelled things with a 25-17 result in the second set. Both teams had opportunities to stamp their authority on the decider, as the level of power did not diminish, but it was Carluke who cane up trumps, claiming the final set 15-12 for their first national trophy win.
The final match of the series featured an Ayrshire derby, between Marr College and Belmont HS. No fewer than nine players with ties to Troon VC were on display, five for Belmont and four for Marr, and the early exchanges were fast and furious. However a serious injury to Belmont setter Harry Briggs changed the tempo of the game, as Belmont, without a replacement setter on the bench, struggled to deal without their playmaker, and allowed Marr to build a commanding 18-7 lead. Just when it looked as though Marr would walk away with the set, Belmont got their act together, and staged a fightback, eventually losing out 25-18.
With captain Cammy Murrie stepping in as setter for the second set, and a more balanced rotation, Belmont looked more at ease in the early exchanges of the second set. Marr, the defending champions were not to be denied however, and sustained offence, with Sam Revie and Scott Wilson particularly prominent. This eventually broke Belmont’s resolve, allowing Marr to take the deciding set 25-16, for their third consecutive cup win (having also won the S2/S3 cup in 2009 with the same team).