Malta assured themselves of third place in Pool A of the CEV European Championships Small Countries Division by seeking off a plucky Ireland 25-12, 25-16, 25-14.
ireland won the opening two points in the first set but Malta hit back and led 8-5 at the technical time-out after middle-blocker Martha Muldowney’s tip dropped inches out of court.
Alison Borg played a captain’s part by conrtibuting three consecutive points to take Malta to 18-8 and they stretched away to take the set 25-12. Ireland fought for every point in the second set with some breathtaking back-court defence and led 8-7 at the technical time-out. But Malta stepped up a gear in the final third of the set with Thais Gatt clinching it with 25-16 with a cross-court hit.
Ireland kept the intensity going in the third set with outside hitter Sharon Lee finding gaps in the Maltese block, however it was Malta who led 8-4 at the technical time-out. Malta kept a firm grip on the set and held off a late Irish fightback to win the set 25-14.
Malta head coach Tibor Strajanek was happy winning the least two matches and said: “It was difficult for us on Friday playing against the two strongest teams and that wasn’t easy, but we were happy to take a set off Cyprus.
Irish head coach Willen Klaas Roosenburg commented: “It doesn’t say in the figures but I think it was an even match. maybe not in the first set but I thought we were unlucky. I’m not saying Malta didn’t deserve to win but the ball just didn’t drop for us. but this team only came together in February and we have only had four or five weekends to work together.”
Captain Edel Nolan added: “We were just a little dissapointed not to get a win. But Malta are an experienced team and we gave them a run for their money.”