North Riding Eagles’ match against league leaders Durham on Sunday was always going to be tough.
Any repeat of a surprise like last time when The Eagles won a set against Durham were dashed when illness hit their squad.
Already missing player-coach Nicki McClure, illness saw Katie Lomas and Eva Elias also absent, meaning North Riding were short of blockers which is not the best strategy against the league’s best hitters with no defence at the net.
Unbeaten Durham’s ‘Galacticos’ were determined to get revenge upon North Riding for daring to take a set off them last time. Durham came out all guns blazing in the first set and their fast hard-hitting play saw the youngsters of North Riding staggering around like dazed boxers.
It was down to the older players to prevent a complete collapse and Amy Hamilton, Jitka Jizerova , Cristina Sechel and captain Heather Reid battled heroically to put up some resistance.
Captain Reid’s experience came to the fore in the time out as she reminded her team-mates to slow the game down and not play at the opposition’s pace. Izzy Shackleton timed her block to perfection to take out the one player everyone was excited about seeing in action – Cristina Anthony. However the late rally came too late to prevent a first set defeat.
North Riding’s player coach Nicki McClure spoke with a calm reassuring authority in the set changeover and her team-mates listened intently. Nicki’s tactical tips were picked up straight away and acted upon by North Riding’s young players.
It was fantastic to suddenly see Catherine Laffan spraying top quality sets around the court, other young players like Rebecca Laffan and Eleanor James hit some fantastic shots and the crowd started whooping and cheering.
The atmosphere changed it was smiles all round as North Riding raced into double figures, even taking the lead at times. However the biggest smile belonged to Christina Anthony of Durham who recognised a team with guts whom to play against.
North Riding were not going to collapse which meant she did not have to switch off and go through the motions – she stepped her game up. It was awesome to watch Eagles were playing well but Christina went up the gears and ensured Durham won the set 25 -11. The kids of North Riding were growing up fast in front of everyone’s eyes. Abbie Lavender, Rebecca Laffan and her sister Catherine not only chased every ball and dived bravely, keeping the ball off the floor but they were making quality pass after quality pass. With North Riding’s players all now passing with quality so Jitka Jizerova was now receiving top quality sets so started battering Durham.
Izzy Shackleton and Heather Reid had a good run of serves and Eagles were buzzing. Despite North Riding making this late rally, Christina Anthony put on a master class in volleyball to lead Durham to a 3-0 set win.
Jetprint Eagles’ player of the match: Monica Eskridge.