The Sports Centre was the place to be on Sunday evening if you’re a fan of high-intensity, high-tension volleyball. It played host to the St Andrews Men’s first team as they saw off Glasgow firsts by three sets to two, the hosts having squandered a two-set advantage only to win the deciding fifth set in a thrilling climax to resuscitate a meandering season as the Scottish 1A League reaches its conclusion.
The Saints came into this encounter having seen their autumnal promise give way to something of a winter of discontent, having lost five of their last six matches. With their opponents also better placed than them in the league, it would have been easy for the Saints to buckle early, yet to their credit they began this clash magnificently, bursting out into a 14-8 first- set lead with Glasgow perhaps taken aback by their intensity, with the outside hitters heavily involved and responsible for many of the Saints’ scores. Although the visitors did manage to belatedly string together some impressive points, St Andrews’ dogged defence ensured the hosts were able to secure the first set in surprisingly easy fashion 25-18.
Looking to continue their impressive performance, the Saints started the second set where they left off in the first, leading 9-5 when the first time-out of the set was called, albeit with a measure of quality from both sides lacking; the amount of serves that either hit the net or didn’t even make it into play undoubtedly being a point of frustration for the coaches and players of both teams. Yet despite the deficit, Glasgow weren’t deterred and remained in touch as the set continued, the increase in the length of time for individual points also reflecting an upturn in the quality of the set. At 17- 16 to the hosts the set was poised for a thrilling denouement. The visitors subsequently drew level three times and got their noses in front for the first time at 23-22. But they then spurned three points to seal the set and it was the Saints who ultimately held their nerve, scoring three points in a row to decide this nail-biting set 27-25 and put them within sight of victory.
However, if one was expecting a demoralised Glasgow to simply melt away they were very mistaken. The visitors jumped out into an 8-4 lead early on in the third set. Aided however by their intricate formations as well as a dubious call by the referee, St Andrews clawed their way back into the set and at 12-12 it seemed as though the set was destined to mirror the close finish seen previously. Much to the disappointment of the hosts however this prediction would prove inaccurate. Glasgow, perhaps sensing that it was now-or-never in the contest, again restored their four point lead at 19-15 and helped by some careless mistakes in the St Andrews ranks, the visitors ultimately strolled home and halved the deficit with a 25- 18 triumph.
The fourth set began with both sides somewhat more reserved with their tactics, perhaps sensing this was the key set. This was reflected in the close score line to begin with, the first 20 points of the set being split evenly. Despite the back and forth continuing for a period, Glasgow looked to have swung the set in their favour with six consecutive points taking the score to 19-15 in their favour. However the Saints once again came roaring back with four points of their own in succession to draw level much to the frustration of the travelling team. Despite this rally, at 24-21 the visitors had a chance to force a deciding set and although the hosts attempted another turnaround, Glasgow weren’t to be denied, ultimately winning the fourth set 25-23.
The deciding set was only a first- to-15 points affair and despite having lost the momentum of the contest the Saints registered the first four points of the set, only to see Glasgow respond with three of their own in a row to bring the score line closer once again. The Saints found themselves at a crossroads, yet unlike the previous two sets, this time they seized the initiative, boasting a 10-5 lead when a Glasgow time-out, designed to try and drag them back into the set, was called. Yet despite the best efforts of the visitors, any potential comeback never materialised as the Saints stormed on to claim the final set 15-8. Despite the fifth set being somewhat anticlimactic for the neutral, this will not have phased St Andrews in the slightest, as this nerve-jangling victory ensured they closed the gap on Glasgow in second place to just three points heading into the final two games of the year.