The lineup for the 2011 Scottish Cup finals weekend was confirmed this week, as, after an enthralling day’s action at Wishaw Sports Centre, the U19 JNL finalists’ emerged to take their place alongside the senior finalists.
Defending champions, City of Edinburgh, finished the regular season in the U19 Junior Mens league on top of the pile, and their reward was a semi-final against South Ayrshire, in a repeat of last years’ final. Edinburgh exploded out of the traps like a greyhound on a racetrack, and made six points off their first service opportunity. This set the tone for the match to follow, as the capital side returned to the final once again with a convincing straight sets victory (25-12; 25-14).
The other semi-final brought together North Lanarkshire Ragazzi and Marr College. Marr, fresh from their triumph in the Scottish School’s Cup final, were on the easy street with a 25-12 scoreline in the opening set. Ragazzi changed things around for the second set, moving Scott McKenzie from middle blocker to setter, and this brought them right back into the reckoning, as they battled their way to an equalising set 25-23, having trailed 23-19 at one point.
Marr changed their blocking assignments to cope with the offensive threat of Ragazzi captain Andy McGregor, and consecutive kill blocks on McGregor from Mark Lawson and Scott Wilson were the key in Marr re-establishing their authority to claim the deciding set 15-8.
North Lanarkshire Ragazzi bounced back from this disappointment to confirm their seeding, with a victory in the 3rd/4th place playoff, overcoming South Ayrshire in straight sets (25-18; 25-22).
Proceedings in the U19 Junior Womens’ competition this season, have been hard and fast, with three teams tied on wins and sets difference at the top of the table. North Lanarkshire Ragazzi, had marginally the better points difference, and this was sufficient to top the regular season for a semi-final with South Ayrshire. South were without several key players, due to family commitments, and were only able to confirm several days before the playoffs that they would have a team to play.
Ragazzi dominated the first set, winning 25-9, with Alex Dickenson in particularly eye-catching form. This performance continued into the second set, and despite a mid-set revival from South Ayrshire, Ragazzi were able to close out the win with a 25-17 scoreline.
The second semi-final featured Marr College and City of Edinburgh. the two teams were the dominant forces in the junior game at the inception of the JNL, and went at each other like a couple of fencers. Marr College shaded a closely-fought first set, 25-22. City of Edinburgh made a key change for the second set, bringing Sophie Hunter up the service order to strengthen the block against Marr’s Claire Ramage. The other key effect of this change was that City were then able to open up the middle of the net, which had been denied to them up to that point. The City middle attackers made great progress as Marr were pushed around the court into uncomfortable positions, and City tied the match 25-15.
City had now firmly established their control of the match, and an 8-1 scoreline at the turnaround in the third set, boded well for their prospects. Marr dug deep into their reserves, and were awarded through the damaging service of Katie Barbour as they brought the game back to balance. City re-established control of the middle, and although Marr were able to save three match points, it was the team from Queensferry which emerged triumphant, 15-12.
Marr College won the 3rd/4th place playoff 25-11;25-14.
Photos ©Lynne Marshall | www.volleyballphotos.co.uk