The dreams of many locals were shattered on Sunday when North Riding Eagles were knocked out of the national shield semi-final.
Speaking about the loss to Chester Amazons, Eagles coach Anthony Laffan said: “We can cry about the defeat, give up and throw away all the years of hard work but to do that is to see this as a failure.
“The semi-final was an achievement– it was a step forward and a big learning curve.”
When North Riding made the seven-hour round-trip they travelled to play a team of adults – some of whom have been professional volleyball players in Europe.
Amazons are linked with Chester university – they have huge resources including access to players who are often brought in specifically to play sports at the universities.
Against the international array of talent that Chester had North Riding fielded one adult, captain Heather Reid and six sixth formers.
North Riding were short of players, meaning they would be restricted tactically. Chester had 11 experienced players plus the advantage of being the hosts. Apart from the head referee, all the other officials were from Chester Amazons.
“Home advantage counted with the referee naturally responding to home calls and the learning point for The Eagles is to fight officialdom effectively before such disadvantages occur,” said Mr Laffan. “After yet another long journey North Riding lost the first set by being sluggish at the start, when they finally got into their stride it was too late the first set was already lost.
The second set saw North Riding wake up and play with flair, it looked easy as Rebecca Laffan, Catherine Laffan and Eleanor James had their own golden triangle, scoring point after point.
The players switchedoff, thinking they had the set won only to see Chester come back and with no substitutes or enough adults to steady things The Eagles were caught, going 2- 0 down in sets.
In the third set, captain Reid rallied her team and North Riding top server Izzy Shackleton worked her magic and won point after point, taking her team into a 7-0 lead and with Katie Lomas and Eva Elias blocking everything North Riding won the set.
Chester knew they were in for a tough semi-final so it was time for Belgium superstar Jana De Brandt to assert herself and as good as North Ridings hitters Rebecca Laffan, Heather Reid and Eleanor James were they were now up against an ex-pro beach volleyball star as De Brandt passed with quality.
North Riding had done well at blocking her attacks so credit to her for finding another way to assert her high technical skills on the game.
Chester’s Italian Eleonora Camerona hit some good points and put the hosts into the lead. Things were tight but North Riding rallied Catherine Laffan rose to the challenge and her excellent setting kept The Eagles on the attack but then the momentum was lost as the Whitby side gallantly exited the shield.