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Youth Commonwealth Games - What a trip!

It began with a long flight out to the Bahamas for the Youth Commonwealth Games and a few days training/acclimatisation. The heat and humidity was difficult to deal with but with proper preparation and great physio support and advice, Emma and Jenny coped with it well. The food was amazing at the hotel and certainly helped to keep all the Scottish athletes and staff happy and healthy.

At the Technical meeting we found out we were using a Molten ball, not the Mikasa we were used to, however after training with it our girls were quite happy. Also the draw seemed to be good for us so again really looking forward to our first match.

Vanuatu were our first opponents. We made a plan and the girls stuck to it, taking the first set no problem 21-7. In the second set Vanuatu came out less nervous and took our girls close but Emma and Jenny held their nerve to close it out 21-19 and take an historic first ever victory for Scotland at any Commonwealth Games in Beach Volleyball.

Day 2 - Jamaica. We had scouted them in training and had a chance to watch Vanuatu play them earlier that morning, which Vanuatu won, so we were feeling confident. Again Emma and Jenny played really well and kept to their game plan, winning 21-13, 21-12 which meant we had a good draw in the quarter-finals.

Quarter-finals we were drawn against the hosts, Bahamas, so we knew they would have good support, but then so did we in the shape of Jenny and Emma's family and lots of the Team Scotland athletes and managers. We were ready! I was quietly confident and that was borne out when we won the first set 21-5 and followed that up with a second set victory 21-14 to guarantee a medal match.

Wow! When we arrived here I don't think anyone had realistic aspirations of medals but now it was a possibility! Semi finals against New Zealand was a tough ask as we had seen them play and train, but the girls prepared the same way as they had before and took that confidence into the match. In set 1, New Zealand got off to an early lead and maintained it with good serving and shot choices to take the set 21-12.

Set 2 started with a lucky break for Scotland with the ball travelling over the antenna and landing in the New Zealand court. After that the set was neck and neck until a passing error made us call a time-out at 16-18 down. A good swing by New Zealand put them ahead at 16-19 but the Scottish girls rallied with a swing by Emma and a block by Jenny and it was New Zealand that called a time-out at 18-19. Another swing deep by Jenny and an unpassable serve by Emma put Scotland up 20-19, however a service error and a passing error put the Kiwis back ahead. A good line shot won the match for New Zealand, but it was a fantastic display by the Scottish girls against top opposition.

This loss put Scotland into the bronze medal match against Rwanda, who lost to Australia in the other semi-final. Set 1 had errors on both sides but it was Scotland that kept those to a minimum and quickly built up a lead. Then a couple of errors and some confidence built for Rwanda, brining the match to 11-11. Two good serves put Rwanda up 11-13 but some great play from Emma and Jenny brought it back with controlled serving and hitting, closed the first set out 21-15.

Set 2 was backwards and forwards with Rwanda taking an early lead 9-12 into the TTO and at 12-16 Scotland looked 2nd favourite for the set. Emma and Jenny fought back to bring it to 18-19 with some great plays combined with some errors from Rwanda. It was at this point that the Rwanda blocker dropped to her knees on the court and the 2nd referee called a 5 minute medical time-out. Immediately afterwards Emma picked up a brilliant ball to bring it back to 19-19 and the game
was on! Errors from both sides made it 20-20. A service error from Jenny and a cut-shot from Emma made it 21-21. Fantastic plays from both sides, each time Rwanda had a set point, Scotland would make it even again. 23-23 and Emma served deep on the defender's shoulder - unplayable to bring up match point to Scotland at 24-23. Rwanda made a lovely short shot off another good serve from Emma to bring it level again. An error from Scotland and a short serve from Rwanda gave the set to Rwanda 26-24 and we were into a 3rd set.

Set 3 and Scotland started slowly with errors from our girls and some good plays from Rwanda going 2-7 down. It was a long way back for Scotland from being 5 points down and, although fighting all the way, it was too much and the set and match was won by Rwanda 15-10.

Although bitterly disappointed with their last match, Emma and Jenny have much to be proud of. The first Scottish representation at any Commonwealth Games and not just 1 win but 3 wins to their names, getting to the final 4 of such a competition is a wonderful achievement and one that they should be proud of.

Thanks must go to the Commonwealth Games Scotland staff, physios and medical staff that got our girls to this position and able to compete so well in the heat and humidity of the Bahamas against African and Caribbean nations that were very used to the conditions.

This was a fantastic trip in so many ways for the girls and for Scottish Beach Volleyball. 2014 was our first outing into International Beach Volleyball and 2017 was our first International outing for a Junior Scottish Beach Volleyball team. With our seniors continuing to fight for a place in the Gold Coast, I think we have shown that Scotland are a force to be reckoned with and will be for some time to come.

Colin Paterson
Scottish Junior Beach Volleyball Head Coach