Eagles make history as first to fell Americans

Whitby's North Riding Eagles volleyball team before taking on star-studded Durham, full of classy Americans
Whitby's North Riding Eagles volleyball team before taking on star-studded Durham, full of classy Americans

The American star players representing Team Durham were taken by surprise on Sunday when they dropped their first-ever set in National League Volleyball ,to Whitby’s North Riding Eagles.

A good crowd had turned out to watch these top college American volleyball players.

They are big-hitting, athletic players and it took the running out of the whole North Riding squad on the day to hang on in and grab some points in the first two sets.

This is proving to be a tough season for a young team who reached the top of their level last year in the Yorkshire league and national division three but are back at the bottom this year in division two.

It is testing their self-belief and confidence is fragile after facing what could be the two best teams in the league for the past three games. While the Eagles gave a good account of themselves in a double header against Manchester, they lost both games 3-2.

On Sunday, the high-profile American side won the first two sets 25-14 and 25-10. Their star player Christina Anthony had left locals stunned with her power hitting and while the double figures the Eagles had scrambled was respectable, nothing signposted what was to happen next.

North Riding coaches Paul Dixon and Anthony Laffan knew they had one chance and struck in the third set. In the first two, they had run everybody out knowing Durham had the smaller squad and had played and beaten Birmingham on Saturday, but that had meant a lot of travelling too .

The Americans had presumed the Eagles’ enthusiasm had peaked in set one.

The longest set of the day started with Durham taking an 8-0 lead but at the time-out, it was as if the Whitby Leisure Centre staff had brought the kitchen sink in for the Eagles to throw at the visitors.

Suddenly, bedlam struck as North Riding Eagles discovered their fight and had Durham on the ropes. The visitors called a time out their first of the day – usually they don’t have a need – but as they now only led by only 17-16, they were worried.

Eagles focused upon the fact that since the last time-out, they were scoring more points than the Americans.

Durham went back on court determined to put the Yorkshire upstarts in their place, but the Eagles were not going to be quashed. At 21-18 to the Eagles, the American All Stars called their second time out to try and stop the hosts’ momentum. The Whitby players finished the game off, making national volleyball history by winning the set 25-22.

They enter the record books as the first team to ever take a set from The University of Durham’s national volleyball league team.

Durham won the game 3-1 but North Riding, against all the odds, had achieved what no other team has ever managed to do.