So near and yet so far sums up the Scotland under 19 Women’s performance at the SC European Championships in Liechtenstein at the start of May 2018.
The tournament opened with the Scots playing a much improved Faroes team but a blistering start from the service line by Karolina Wroblewska saw Scotland race to a 8-0 lead which ensured a first set victory. The close second set saw the Faroes equalise but the match was decided in the third when a big lead was lost by our home players following six service errors and the set was conceded 27-25. The team never recovered in the fourth and so the game was lost 3-1.
However, there was still another match to be played that day and a further loss would have put paid to any thoughts of taking home a medal.
Liechtenstein, the hosts, were next up. A new formation was established and with Hannah Paisley and Julieanne Hendry both now through the middle the Scots women looked better balanced and a 25-18 first set win was secured. The host side hit back and stole the second set 25-23 which meant that we were facing a seventh set of the day in a precarious position but with Hendry and Paisley dominant at the net and the passing unit of Deirdre O’Riordan, Emma Waldie , Ellie Stewart and Heather Hamilton becoming rock solid the third and fourth sets were both won comfortably enough to 18. So, winning a medal was now back on course but the final colour was still to be established.
Day two was to be a quieter, calmer affair as Wales were disposed of 12,12 and 12. Natalia Blaszczak had had a blistering run of serves, Nicole Ramage had continued to dictate plays and Megan Duncanson and Kate Renforth had made a strong contribution as the Scots set themselves up for the final day match against tournament favourites Luxembourg.
Training in the morning had gone well and the game plan was firmly in place but the performance of the first set was still a surprise as the Scots simply tore the much fancied Luxembergers apart by an astounding 25-12. Hendry and Paisley were imperious at the net. Rhian Murphy and Ramage outstanding in the block and once again Waldie, O’Riordan and Stewart provided a solid pass and excellent defence. A gold medal was suddenly a possibility but the next two sets had to be won to achieve this.
The second set saw our opponents get to grips with our attack but we were still very much in contention at 20-21 but a very tough line call saw the team trail 20-22 when it could so easily have been 21-21. Momentum was lost and with it the set. The next two sets went the way of the second with the Scottish Women competing all the way through but just being edged out 19 and 20. The gold was gone and with the Faroes winning 3-0 later in the day against Liechtenstein, the silver went too but the team had clinched a hard fought and very honourable bronze.
The players had competed for every point across 3 really tough days and you could sense and hear the pride in the voices of a great group of athletes who had given everything as they represented their country so well.
Julianne Hendry was given the accolade of best middle player in the award ceremony at the end of the tournament.
Out thanks go to sponsors of the team: