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Without a doubt one of the closest matches of this year’s Roses tournament took place in the sports hall on Friday night as the mixed teams of Lancaster and York squared up in a game of volleyball. With both sides having very successful seasons, the form book would tell you it was going to be a very close game, and the match stayed on script the whole way through.
The first of five sets did not begin well for Lancaster, they quickly found themselves 6-1 down and needing to regroup. Mixed team captain Stefano Lucherini called an early time out and it did have the desired effect of kick-starting Lancaster in the game, with the team flying back to make it 7-7. Men’s team captain Rob Cannings was providing key spike shots to bring Lancaster back into the set.
After drawing level the teams traded points, both off good play and mistakes as each side got into their rhythms. At 23-21 in the set, Lancaster’s Filipe Duarte stepped up to make a play which edged the team towards drawing level, however York managed to hang on and take the first set 25-22.
The second set began well for Lancaster, as their play really began to click at the right times, building a small advantage to make it 12-8.
Then disaster struck for one of Lancaster’s girls, as Valentina Ticcinelli went down with an injury. Already carrying a small knock in her knee, she appeared to aggravate the problem when the knee hit the court after coming down from a jump. Valentina was unfortunately unable to continue and needed to be carried off the court, but York showed great sportsmanship by respectfully clapping her exit. Every team in the Roses wants to beat their opponent, but shows of respect make the tournament what it is, tough but respectful. Lancaster went on to win the second set to even the game.
The third and fourth sets were similarly evenly matched, both teams taking one each meaning that we were heading to a final, and deciding, fifth set. In the four prior sets, the team who gets to 25 points first would take the set; in the fifth however, it’s the first to 15. This has the effect of amplifying any mistakes made, because a minor error could cost you the entire game, the pressure was on.
Even into the fifth set both teams were showing their class, with shots being made all over the court.
York retained a rotation strategy when it came to personnel throughout the game, likely so everyone was fairly fresh should the game go the full five sets. Lancaster went the opposite direction with team members, keeping the same team on the court throughout, of course with the injury replacement exception. Lancaster were making sure leadership was not going to become an issue, by keeping all three of the squad captains on the court. The captain who has not been mentioned yet is Irene Louca of the women’s team, she played a big part in this game for Lancaster, as she was playing in the setter position. It was up to her to make the key passes to allow Cannings, Lucherini and Duarte to fire in devastating spike shots. Louca marshalled the area around the net well and provided numerous set passes which the other Lancaster players could attack.
The final set was tied up at 11 all when Filipe Duarte stepped up to make a hattrick of point scoring plays, giving the advantage to Lancaster who were one point from victory. Duarte had made a number of momentum changing plays in the game, although Lancaster could not always capitalise on this throughout the match. However on this occasion, the team finished the game off well to take it three sets to two. Either team could have won this, and it was a great advert for the game as a whole. But the Lancaster team showed their quality when it was needed most, and that made a difference out on the court.