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The Scottish Student Sport Women’s Rep Squad had an early year competitive challenge when they travelled to Newcastle to face Britain’s top two university teams for the past four years – Northumbria and Durham.  With both teams sitting on top of Volleyball England’s Super 8 championship, the trip was always going to be a tough challenge for the Scottish students.

Squad selection followed two trial sessions and a day of scrimmage matches, with calendar and logistical challenges dictating that it was only possible to schedule one team preparation session before the challenge matches in Newcastle on 18th January.  With seven institutions and eight nationalities involved, the SSS squad was very much representative of the sector and although nine of the players were new to the SSS set up, the players integrated well and had a positive mindset going into the first match against reigning English Champions Northumbria.

In the first set, the Scottish students’ solid passing unit allowed them to establish hitting options and compete at the net and although Northumbria closed out the set 25-19, the SSS players acquitted themselves well and went into the second set with hopes high.  Unfortunately the team’s passing broke down under a powerful and targeted opposition serve and a combination of the speed of Northumbria’s attack and a high number of unforced hitting errors meant that the Scottish students struggled to get back into the match.  SSS coach Tom Rooney tried a variety of passing and attack combinations to address the challenges his team were facing, but Northumbria had no difficulty in closing out the match 3–0.

Any thoughts that the Durham match might offer a slightly easier challenge were quickly dispelled in the warm up, where the hitting power and height of the opposition quickly became apparent.  The reason Durham currently sit top of the English Super 8 league was evident from the start of the game, with the SSS girls struggling to contend with the force of the opposition’s hitting and, with the same problems surfacing in passing, Scottish Students never managed to put Durham under any sustained pressure. 

However credit must go to the SSS players in their determination to compete and some accurate and aggressive blocking from Strathclyde’s Emma Lawrie in the second and third sets ensured that the Durham hitters needed to be creative in finding space at the net.  Tom Rooney’s intelligent management of the squad attempted to stabilise the passing unit and offer different solutions to the imposing physical presence of the Durham block.  However the 0-3 match score highlighted Durham’s impressive strength and power and the impact that Team Durham’s Elite Athlete Support Programme has made to their volleyball programme, with eight of the current squad being recruited from the USA.

Credit must go to all the players that competed in Newcastle for their commitment to the squad and positive, competitive attitude throughout both challenge matches.  Thanks must also go to the many players that attended the trial sessions and scrimmage matches in the squad’s selection and preparation.  Finally, thanks must go to Tom Rooney for his continuing support of the Scottish Student Sport Women’s Volleyball Representative Squad.  Tom’s intelligent and supportive coaching input is appreciated and valued by all those that attend SSS trial and training sessions.

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