Dundee University was the venue for the fourth Scottish Student Challenge event which saw the best female student players within Scottish Universities take on the Scottish Senior and Junior teams The tournament provides valuable match time for the national teams against often unknown players as the Scottish Universities Squad is usually comprised of mainly overseas students: this year seven nationalities were represented within the student squad.
The first match of the day saw the Scottish Junior Squad take the court against a strong universities team. The juniors struggled to cope with the universities’ tough serving and difficulties with their passing unit made it difficult to establish a consistent and stable attack. The universities settled quickly into their play and their Finish setter Korjala (Robert Gordon University) orchestrated their attacks very effectively.
Despite continuing encouragement and advice from coach Krazwcyk, who used his bench throughout the match, the young players didn’t manage to subdue the students. However their never-say-die attitude and willingness to compete at the net augurs well for the summer preparation for the UK Youth Games in August. The match finished 25-14, 25-15, 25-15 in the students’ favour.
In the day’s second match, Scottish Juniors got off to a more positive start against their senior counterparts and were growing in confidence with the early score at 6 – 5 in their favour. However they once again struggled with the seniors’ service and the 25-17 1st set score was to be the most the juniors would score in the match. In the second and third sets strong hitting on the outside by Troon’s Lynsey Bunton caused the juniors problems and despite a number of personnel changes they went down 17-25, 11-25, 8-25.
The final match of the day was the key challenge for the universities squad and they appeared to be fired up for the task from the off. The start of the 1st set was keenly contested with good passing from the students allowing Korjala to use her attack effectively. However a hitting error by the Seniors which was sandwiched by 2 kill blocks by Napier’s Stepien allowed the students to open a gap which they extended to take the 1st set 25-20.
In the 2nd set strong serving by the students put the Seniors’ passing unit under pressure, allowing them to open up an early 9 – 3 lead. This points differential was maintained by the universities, who benefited from the experience of Dundee University’s former Greek Junior International Marina Petropoulou. At 11-19 the Seniors were struggling to contain the student’s tactical hitting and despite pegging back some of the deficit, the universities’ took the 2nd set 25-19.
The prospect of an historic win for the universities’ seemed to galvanise the Senior side in the 3rd set and at 16 – 19 they were still very much in the set. However three hitting errors and a service error allowed the universities to open the points gap and close the game out with a 25-20 final set win.
Congratulations are due to coach Tom Rooney and his assistants David McEwan and Aileen Hall for preparing the Scottish Universities Squad so effectively and for the student players for recording such a notable result against the Scottish Senior Women’s Team.
However the Scottish Student Challenge is about more than just match results. It is an opportunity for important court and match time for our national team programmes and their coaching staff and players. The lessons learnt in match situations and the solutions to problems and challenges are all part of the positive outcomes from this annual event.
Thanks go to the NTP coaching staff for bringing together the players and supporting Scottish Universities Volleyball. Thanks also to the twenty eight players who gave so much in the matches and who represent the future of Scottish women’s international volleyball.