GB men took on the reigning European champions Spain in the first match of the 2009 European League and very nearly caused an upset. On paper Coach Harry Brokking’s young British squad should have probably have been blown away, they most certainly were not, thanks to the hours spent on the training court guided by Harry and Assistant Coach Joel Banks. GB opened with a series of strong Blocks from Mark Plotyczer and Nathan Bennett, good serving from Joel Miller saw them only a point down at the first Technical Time out.
Make no mistake this was now developing into match which could have gone either way, Huge attacks from the Spanish were either blocked or picked up by the GBR back court defence, and converted. Ben Pipes the GBR Captain showed just why he has been picked out by a few foreign Coaches as having the potential to become a top setter. When the Spanish took a 20-18 lead it looked as though the writing was on the wall, but two massive spikes by new recruit Jason Haldane, one down the line and one cross court as the Spaniards sought to close him of off brought GB to within one point at 22-21. Inexperience showed up in the latter stages of the set, as Spain clinched it 25- 23 following GB making a double substitution as Kieran O’Malley took over the setting role and Andy Pink had his first Taste of the action.
As the 2000 vociferous spectators drew breath, it was back on court for the second set, and this time GB took the early initiative to lead 8-7, This was the best quality match that the GBR squad have been involved in to date and they were more that holding their own leading for most of the set and keeping the increasingly nervous Spaniards playing catch up. GB reached 21-19 and looked poised to take the set. A controversial decision that a huge net touch by a Spanish outside blocker during a fantastic long rally where GB had come out on top, was not fault under the new rules, cost the GB Boys dear, instead of being three points up they were pulled back level, then lost the set by the same score as in the first 25-23.
Coach Harry Brokking was looking to his team to see if they could sustain their high level commitment as they went into the 3rd, and what turned out to be the final set, as GB went down 25-16. Harry although a little disappointed that his guys did not seize their chances which they most certainly had to take what would have been a huge achievement, was full of praise for the young guys Joel Miller and libero ‘Digger Dan’ Hunter who do not even have a handful of caps between the pair of them who went toe to toe against the experienced home side.
After the match Coach Velasco who is one of the most highly respected coaches in the world
said ’I was very impressed with the way the GB team went about their game plan, executing intelligent hitting which challenged his team through out the match”, he went on to say that” if GB continue progressing at this rate they should be able to challenge at the top level come 2012” he said “Great Britain is a great sporting nation in a range of sports, they must now continue to fund Volleyball to a level which will allow the progress of the team to continue, it is not simply about winning medals it is about positioning your teams at the very top level and showing that volleyball is the best team game in the world”