• Durham will provide semi-final opposition in March
St Andrews 1sts 3
Glasgow 1sts 0
The Volleyball Women’s 1sts secured passage into the semi-finals of the BUCS Trophy with an assured and largely straightforward win over Glasgow.
The straight-set victory (25-18 25-14 26-24) was completed in little more than an hour and, although the performance was not perfect, gave the team reason to be confident of retaining the title they won last season.
Saints had beaten their opponents in both of their league meetings this season, and came on court determined to make it a hat-trick of wins.
Glasgow gained the first point of the match but were soon 3-1 behind after the hosts edged a long rally that was prolonged by a superb dig from Saints’ libero, Lorena Tussis.
Glasgow remained dogged, but a combination of disorganisation in their defence and pressure from Britt Martin’s solid serving allowed the home team to move ahead at 10-6.
It got worse for the visitors, as Carly McKinlay’s serves proved too much for them to cope with and Saints looked in complete control with a 14-8 lead.
Yet mistakes were creeping into the hosts’ play with increasing regularity, resulting in their coach Shelly Paterson calling a time-out, in which she stressed the importance of finishing points off.
That had an instant impact, with Maria Toomik’s spike pushing her side 17-14 ahead.
Glasgow’s defence did remain resolute, but McKinlay’s reaction blocks secured a couple of crucial points to give Saints a 22-17 advantage. Martin was then back on the offensive with her serves, allowing the hosts to see out the first set 25-18.
A net foul by Glasgow gave Saints the first point of the second set and it was soon 5-0 thanks to Saints’ rapid transitions from defence to offence and their opponents misjudging the court boundaries to their cost.
The seemingly relentless charge was checked at 5-1, but not for long as Martin’s serves wreaked their usual havoc and Saints had a comfortable 8-2 lead.
Glasgow had little in the way of answer to the Saints’ hitters’ venomous spikes, falling yet further behind (13-4) as Jeannette Viens’ serves and Indre Semogas’ sets had the home side purring into a rhythm.
The away side’s spurts of mini-revival could do little but delay Saints’ dominant march towards winning the set, as they found gaps in their opponents’ defence that they were able to cover much better on their own side of the court – the 20-9 scoreline just about reflected their superiority.
Glasgow did manage to pull a few points back to give the set a more respectable look, but Saints maintained their grip on the lead and Martin’s spike ended it at 25-14 and meant that the home team were just one set away from victory.
Having controlled that last set from start to finish, it looked like Saints’ semi-final place was not much more than a formality.
Glasgow’s coach had other ideas, however, and attempted to rouse her team into providing more effective resistance to the St Andrews juggernaut.
It seemed her words had been in vain at the start of the set, as the hosts continued to find holes in the Glasgow defence, but they did tighten up and were hanging in at 3-3.
Good pressure at the net and some booming serves from Hannah Berwian moved Saints three points ahead, only for their opponents to raise their game and draw level at 8-8.
An unstoppable spike from Martin and some more solid serves, this time from Semogas, were not enough to shake Glasgow off the scent.
The away side were making much more of a fight of this third set, and were very much still in the hunt at 14-14, when their coach called a time-out.
That move had the desired effect, as they gained a two-point advantage at 16-18, before the hosts came out on top of an epic rally, the longest of the match.
Even so, the visitors appeared determined to keep hold of their lead, at least until they hit two balls long to level things up at 20-20.
A couple of good spikes nudged Glasgow ahead 22-21, but McKinlay responded with her own to put the hosts into the lead.
Saints, now so close to overall victory, were throwing everything at their opponents, but they clung on and levelled again 24-24, showing a fighting spirit that had been missing in the first two sets.
But eventually their resistance was broken, as two final spikes from Berwian won the set and the match.
Speaking to Paterson after the match, she said she was most pleased with the scoreline and also her team’s desire to keep pushing and stay strong as a team, even when behind in the final set.
She did say the players needed to improve their understanding of timing their blocks, as well as remaining mentally strong throughout.
Paterson then acknowledged the players’ confidence of going all the way in this competition again. Certainly Durham will prove a test when they meet on 17 March, but there was enough in this performance to suggest Saints can do enough to get the desired result and make the final once again.