A small Dumfries-shire town was this week the toast of Scottish volleyball as their teams score double gold in the finals of the Scottish Schools Cup.
When you think of the hotbeds of the national game, the town of Moffat probably doesn’t figure on the radar. This is firmly rugby country, and the local school has a roll of only 300 children. Yet Moffat Academy secured the main prize in both boys and girls finals at the expense of more highly regarded opposition.
The girls were first on court, facing up to Marr College, the winning set school since the Scottish Schools Cup was re-established in 2009. Marr played an attractive game, but were unable to deal with the sheer speed of the Moffat offence, and Moffat was triumphant in straight sets, 25-12, and 25-14. Two days later it was the turn of the Moffat boys to pit their wits, this time against Stonelaw HS. This match was less clear-cut, as both teams serves up some spectacular plays, particularly at the net. Although Stonelaw had some clear opportunities to extend their opponents, Moffat held firm at the crucial times, and sealed the game, 25-21, 25-20 to give Coach Brian Orr some reward for the countless hours spent keeping volleyball alive in the South of Scotland.
These were just two of the six finals played as a culmination of the schools volleyball programme that runs from September to March, all the way from Orkney down to the Borders. The S2/S3 girls final brought together Carluke HS and Ayr’s Kyle Academy. The Carluke girls have been playing this year in the Junior National League, and improving week on week. However Kyle brought no end of skill and athleticism to the final, and dominated from the outset, winning out 25-12, 25-8.
The boys S2/S3 final was an Ayrshire derby, featuring Grange Academy (Kilmarnock) and Belmont Academy (Ayr). Grange shone in patches in the first set, although Belmont came out on top, and the second set was controlled by the Ayr men, as they took the championship 25-20, 25-15.
In the programme notes before the Senior Girls final, the captain of St Maurices HS (Cumbernauld) commented that her team felt overwhelmed to be in the final, and this certainly looked the case in the opening exchanges as Queensfery HS (Edinburgh) ran away with the first set 25-10. The look of steely determination on some of the St Maurices players’ faces at the changeover displayed their intent to do better in the second set, and they came out with all guns blazing, moving into a comfortable lead. Queensferry shuffled their pack, and battled back to a match ball situation. St Maurices made the save, and for a complete court rotation of six servers, saved the match ball before controlling and blocking to take the second set 31-29. It was now Queensferry’s turn to show their grit, and calling on all their reserves of experience, take the determining set 15-7 for their first victory at this level.
The stage curtain on finals week was fittingly brought down with the Senior Boys final. Marr College has been the predominant team in boys volleyball at school level in recent years, with three consecutive Scottish Cup victories. Carluke HS, with a team on average two years younger than that of Marr, are the heirs apparent to the crown, but were made to wait for their first victory at senior level, as Marr pounded the Carluke defence time after time to score their fourth Scottish Cup in a row, winning 25-11, 25-20 to post a record that will be tough to beat in years to come.
Moffat Academy 2 Marr College 0
Moffat Academy 2 Stonelaw HS 0
Kyle Academy 2 Carluke HS 0
Belmont Academy 2 Grange Academy 0
Queensferry HS 2 St Maurice’s HS 1
25-10; 29-31; 15-7
Marr College 2 Carluke HS 0