It has been a steep learning curve for everyone connected with the Scottish Beach Volleyball National Teams. 18 months ago we didn’t even have a programme.
The CEV Continental Cup Round 4 was in Thessaloniki, Greece, 5-6 September 2015. Prior to the event the women’s training squad was working hard and competition for places was tight. The squad that was eventually selected, after much deliberation, was:
Team 1: Lynne Beattie & Mel Coutts
Team 2: Catherine Smy & Joanne Morgan
Reserve: Jennifer Thom
Coach: Colin Paterson
We were drawn against Greece, Finland and Azerbaijan, however at the Technical Meeting we discovered that Azerbaijan had not arrived, so we had to beat only one country to progress, with the top two teams to qualify through to Round 5. That was still a tough task! Greece had Arvaniti/Tsiartsiani, World Tour and multiple-Olympians in their squad and Finland had some very good results recently and were seeded above Greece, but we were up for the challenge!
Finland’s first team of Lehtonen and Lahti was looking very strong and were first up for Smy and Morgan. This was definitely a baptism of fire for the Scottish second team, but we played hard and fought for every point, however the Finnish team were too strong and took the match 21-9, 21-12.
Coutts and Beattie were next up against the Finnish second team of Hasu/Parkkinen. We thought we had a good chance against this team, and we had plenty of chances, however didn’t put away the chances when we had them and ultimately went down 21-14, 21-13.
This meant we had to beat Greece on their home turf in order to progress in the competition. First up were Smy and Morgan against Arvaniti and Tsiartsiani. Knowing now what to expect in a match of this quality, Smy and Morgan played with more confidence, however the Greeks had too much experience and quality and won the match 21-10, 21-10.
Beattie and Coutts had been training with the Greek second team during the year, knew what to expect and thought they could beat this team, however again they didn’t take their chances when they had them and lost 21-14, 21-18.
Although very disappointed not to progress into Round 5, we realise that we have come a long way in a very short space of time and to get this far has been an incredible achievement.
Early in 2014 we learned that we were to take men’s and women’s squads to Slovenia for Round 1 of the Continental Cup, which is one route to gaining Olympic qualification. This we did, relishing the challenge and gaining invaluable experience against World Tour teams.
Round 2, we were informed, was to be in Scotland! Wow! All hands to the pumps then!
It is at events like these that the enthusiasm of the members and staff of Scottish Volleyball shine through, and the event staged by us in September 2014 at Portobello Beach was no different. It was a wonderful showcase of our beautiful sport. Televised by Sky Sports, it showed why Beach Volleyball is a hugely popular sport worldwide and showed the Scottish Volleyball community the opportunities available to them to compete at this level.
Both men’s and women’s teams qualified out of Round 2, the men beating good Slovakian teams and a very good and experienced American team (playing for Ireland) in the final.
Round 3 was to be in Baden, Austria. This was going to be tough. The men had Russia, Norway and Ukraine. The women had Russia, Bulgaria and Ukraine. All the countries we faced were big nations in Volleyball and Beach Volleyball – in stature, experience and quality. The winners would qualify directly to Round 5, with 2nd and 3rd going to Round 4. 4th place would be eliminated.
Both women and men faced Russia first which, with 2012 Olympians in the squads, was tough with the Scots losing 2-0 in both cases, but not before Scotland showed some good quality. Next up for the men was a very well drilled Ukraine squad which, unfortunately, Scotland lost 2-0 and exited the competition.
The women had Bulgaria to stay in the competition. Gillian Lyall and Katie Barbour played really well against the Bulgarian first team, however lost 2-0. Mel Coutts and Lynne Beattie beat the Bulgarian second team 2-0 to take the tie to a ‘winner-takes-all’ Golden Match against the Bulgarian first team. Coutts and Beattie managed to win this match in 3 sets, 21-13, 22-24, 15-12 in an historic win against an established Beach Volleyball nation, to take Scotland’s Women into Round 4.
We now need to keep up this momentum, keep developing new players and keep competing against other nations in order to improve and do even better in our next competition. Our junior programmes are now under way and we hope that anyone who is interested will get in touch with the SVA Office, who will then put you onto the appropriate training programme.
There are lots of opportunities to play, so come and have a go!
Beach National Teams Head Coach