Red-hot Eagles overcome freezing Bristol welcome

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Whitby’s North Riding Eagles volleyball team won through to the last four of a national competition after surviving freeze-gate.

The Whitby side’s long journey to Bristol seemed to be going well, leaving the snowbound North York Moors for a more spring-like south west of England.

But when they walked into the sports hall for the national quarter-final match against Bristol volleyball club, it was like taking part in a British expedition to The Antarctic.

Coach Anthony Laffan said: “The Bristol players were lovely and it would be nice to host them if they ever came up to North Yorkshire but somebody had not been putting the 10ps in the meter.

“Never before had the North Riding team warmed up with such enthusiasm.

“The Eagles ran around like banshees in an effort to get warm. Any thoughts about cup glory had disappeared as the basic instinct to stay warm kicked in. The cold breeze block sports hall had a detrimental affect upon the skill levels.

“Players on both sides were blown up for handling errors as the volley pass and receive becomes an extremely difficult shot to play when players fingers are frozen.

“Add to this the muffled atmosphere that the large crowd exuded due to everyone watching being wrapped up in big coats , hats and gloves and it was clear this was going to be an indoor volleyball match with a difference.”

It was difficult to get any rhythm going during the game and it no surprise that the sets scores were so close.

North Riding Eagles won 3-1 after some long rallies – 25-21, 26-24, 21-25, 25-21.

The Eagles girls have grown up with beach volleyball, so cutting out the volley and using the underarm pass benefited the Eagles who always looked the most composed of the sides. The most valued player award went to Caedmon College sixth former Catherine Laffan who kept some volley sets going but she can also bump set extremely well. This meant the Eagles were always in control of the outcome on court. The strange fixture saw another official complaint being registered to Volleyball England by the match officials concerning Bristol’s failure to provide scorers which put added pressure on the referees and led to North Riding losing the third set when The Eagles won points but the calls went the wrong way and so the outcome of the set changed – but they are still through to the semis.

Mr Laffan added: “It is great news for The Eagles that they are one match away from a national final where they would be the warm-up act in the national shield final to the cup final between two super eight club sides which will be on Sky TV. The Eagles now travel to Cheshire in March for the semi-final against another national league side they have never played before, Chester Amazons.

North Riding continue their run of away matches with a league fixture at top-of-the-table Durham University. Training sessions open to all pupils at Caedmon College on a Monday after school 4pm-5.30pm and to the general public at Whitby Leisure centre Fridays 6pm-8pm.