Lancaster rises from the dead to clench victory



Lancaster 3
Leeds 2


Lancaster staged a remarkable comeback from two sets down to win 3-2 against a strong Leeds side. With the result of the match seemingly a formality, a combination of astute teamwork and excellent individual performances from Suzann Kern and Lindsay Rybak turned the game on its head.

The home side struggled to get to grips with Leeds’ strong serves and spikes in the opening set, with miscommunication in the Lancaster defence leading to a number of costly points. Despite team captain Emilija Skrebunaite remonstrating with her teammates, Leeds continued to dominate, showing gritty determination in defence to keep out the Lancaster attack. However, with the score at 19-9 to Leeds, outside hitter Lindsay Rybak brought Lancaster back into it with some impressive spikes, while Emilija Skrebunaite’s powerful serves broke down the resilient Leeds defence. The first set ended with a respectable if somewhat flattering score of 25-17 to Leeds.

Lancaster came right out of the traps in the second set, a series of clever hits putting them 4-1 in front. Emilija made more use of her rapid serves, catching Leeds out on a number of occasions. Midway through the set Lancaster edged out 9-8 in front after some great work from Suzann Kern, who, along with Casey Clayton, shone more and more as the game went on. Indeed, Lancaster made more of a match of it throughout the second set, Lindsay Rybak heading the attack and making some strong over-arm hits. This period was much better defensively from Lancaster, notwithstanding Leeds recurrent attacking threat and equal solidarity in defence which saw them 25-19 up at the end of the second set.

Cue the remarkable events which followed. The home side ruffled Leeds and forced numerous errors, mainly down to the quality of serves. Suzann Kern continued her exemplary form with some brilliant blocks and scoring a few along the way. Leeds continued to pose problems, their number 15 scoring a few thunderbolt hits, however Lancaster always seemed the hungrier, and the more positive of the two teams. At one point they were cruising in front at 20-11 and in spite of some defensive misunderstandings pegged it back to 2-1, winning 25-16.

In the fourth set the game sparked right into life. Initially, it looked as if Leeds had overcome their difficulties in the previous set and would go on to win as they went out 9-5 in front. But within the unpredictable context of this game, Lancaster got back into it and edged in front at 11-10. Emilija Skrebunaite launched more strong, quick serves to score some aces for the home side, who were now playing as much more of a unit and looking far more comfortable defensively. Some sublime finishes from Lindsay Rybak helped Lancaster rake in the points and they finished 25-17 in front and had incredibly dragged it back to 2-2 in sets.

There could now only be one winner. Emilija Skrebunaite was a constant vocal presence, rallying the team and sorting out positions. Leeds still looked indecisive defensively, if a little nervous. This was a set of thrilling rallies, with both teams going all out for the win yet cautious in the face of defeat. For a moment, it looked as though Lancaster were staring defeat in the face at 13-10 down. This was until Suzann Kern rediscovered her scoring touch to bring it neck and neck at 13-13. Emilija’s serving ability again came to light and Leeds were clearly shaken. A series of exquisite hits by Lindsay Rybak put Lancaster on their way to a 17-15 win and capped an extraordinary turnaround by Lancaster to win 3-2.
After the match, captain Emilija Skrebunaite commented; “I was not happy, we made a very slow start. However, we got into the game; we’re feeling each other and playing like a proper team now. This is the first game I can say we are playing as a team”.

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