Warming up to play international Volleyball usually takes around 50 minutes. As the final preparations for the CEV European League men’s match in Salamanca between Spain and Great Britain were underway, the Spanish Opposite, Rocamora, went down with an ankle injury. The GB boys still feeling a little disappointed from their 3-1 defeat the Spanish conquistadores had handed them the day before were ready for the fray. As the Samba band were whipping up the crowd into a Latin frenzy aided and abetted by El Toro, the Spanish Mascot, the gauntlet was well and truly thrown down by the host team. Having witnessed their Women’s team going down in 5 sets to a tall Turkish team the home fans scented blood.
Lightning fast serves followed by huge blocks took Spain to a quick 3-0 lead and served notice that GB would have to scrap from every angle. Suddenly, monster bulldog blocking from Mark Plotyczer, then Mark McGivern then Nathan Bennett countered the early Spanish threat and set the tone for the first set. GB Coach Harry Brokking had gone with Kieran O’Malley feeding a stream of accurate sets which were duly dispatched by Dami Bakare and Andy Pink. Spain were forced to change their setter as GB raced to an 8-4 lead at the first technical time-out and continued to match the Spaniards to lead 16-11 by the second
The GB team empowered by the total support from their subs corner, themselves itching get into the action, were responding magnificently to the incessant beat of the Spanish percussionist.
Spain upped their game in response and clawed back 4 points to trail by just two points at 21-23, danger threatened before Nathan Bennett restored order shutting down all avenues on Parres who was beginning to make his ample presence felt attacking in the centre. Ruiz, who was also beginning to finds ways to test the GB rearguard, was next to feel as if the lights had gone out, when Dami Bakare leapt high , hovered in the air for a while then with a slight adjustment of his arms, then his wrists, to complete a monstrous stuff block which must have looked like a total eclipse to the attacking Spaniard. GB in control, to take the first set 25-22, having firmly grasped the gauntlet and tossed it back in the Spanish court.
Set 2 was an absolute hitting festival with powerful attacking and spectacular defense with both teams swaying to the rhythm of the drums in a bid for supremacy. GB edged ahead at 21-19 as Ben Pipes joined the action, Spain called a time out. Super quick Mark (Samba) Plotyczer, working overtime in passing and attack and feeling right at home, was finally shut out by Spain. Before they could turn this to their advantage the flying Scotsman, Mark II, or is it III? steamed a belter through the middle, crushing the well coiffure bunned pony tail of an increasingly bemused Ruiz as it bounced of his head and high into stands beside the drummers who were just losing a little of their rhythm as they urged the home team to greater heights. The consistent stream of accurate floating cannonball serves from GB meant that the Spanish armada could not quite manoeuvre their big guns into attacking positions which could inflict real damage to the GB defences, the marauding British took the set 26-24, and nostrils were twitching as they scented a famous victory could be written into the history books should they find a way to keep the pressure on.
Surely the Spaniards could not be so soundly beaten in their own back yard? With the game on live TV and being beamed across Europe the increasing frantic attacks from the Spanish were being repelled with impunity as Broking marshaled his fleet with Captain Ben Pipes replacing first mate O’Malley, Nathan French then joined his mates on the floor, O’Malley came on to serve for Baker which saw their 16-11 lead at the second technical time-out, stretch to 22-19. The Spanish rallied momentarily with a 2nd ball attack from setter De Amo followed up by an ace serve saw Brokking take a time out at 24-22 to prepare for the final push which say McGivern hanging around in the middle to get his third fingernail of his left hand to thwart a last ditch tip attack from the Spanish to finish the match. 25-22 to secure the 3-0 victory.
Coach Arie Brokking smiled ruefully as he reflected on the match “…I am very happy with the result and of course it keeps us in the race for the Final Four, t there was a lot of tension in the players after the loss yesterday, so it was a good win, with better serving and blocking than the day before. I am very much looking forward to next Saturdays televised match against the Group leaders Romania at the K2 in Crawley at 3.00pm and hope that we can good support to help us go forward” When asked if GB could win both matches next weekend? he said “we will be very much be concentrating on the first game
Julio Velasco the Spanish coach, was appreciative of the efforts of the GB team saying that “they had certainly progressed and were now a very interesting group of players. The injury to Rocamora our Opposite during the warm up was unfortunate, we missed 4 experienced players and had some young players on court,”
Perhaps not realizing that the team GB had on court were younger than his group.
GB Captain Ben Pipes said “I’m obviously delighted; it was a big turnaround from a 3-1 loss yesterday to a 3-0 win. it was like déjà vu from last weekend when we beat Slovakia 3-0 on the Sunday match at EIS Sheffield, it was a solid performance not always pretty but we battled for the result which means we maintained the level, so now is the time for us to say this is the time for us to say that this is the level we keep, to get this type of result going forward.” He went on to say “ We are massively looking forward to the matches next weekend in Crawley, not only do we get our first game down near London we get to test out what crowd we can gather there, I’m hoping they are as loud as the Spanish crowd was today which made for a great atmosphere to play in. It is important that The two matches in Crawley against Romania have become must-win matches, and it is entirely within our own hands to qualify for the final four in Guadalajara in July
There were no wild celebrations from the British staff, rather a smile of satisfaction at a job well done, Assistant Coach Joel Banks who has recently signed a contract to be the head coach of Pro club, Langhenkel Volley in Holland during the next Club season , and GB statistician Craig Richardson, had kept a steady flow of specific performance information to Head Coach Harry Brokking, Karen Beattie the GB physiotherapist was working overtime during the match to keep both Mark McGivern and Andy Pink fit and back on court as soon as the team needed them., and even had time to keep the young fans attention as she applied her none too blunt elbow technique to McGivern’s posterior, allowing him to fully utilize his full jump right through to the end of the match.
GB Performance Manager