With one eye on the upcoming SEV SCD European Championship finals in Andorra, Scotland took the opportunity to assess the form of some of the in-form players from around the Schelde Sports National League, as an experimental side was victorious against both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in Belfast.
The two Irish nations traditionally play an international series to celebrate St Patrick’s Day, but there was an added spice this year as the Scots made up a three team tournament for some welcome international experience for all. It is hoped that this can become a regular event in the national team calendar, and that perhaps some of the other NT squads can get involved in future.
Scotland 3 Republic of Ireland 0 (25-7; 25-14; 25-11)
After the short flight to Belfast the squad arrived at the venue and with no time to spare were straight into the first match against the Republic of Ireland. The two squads last competed in Andorra in the qualifying campaign to which coach Lauren Cauet, was hoping to improve on that performance with the introduction of some younger players to his squad which he described as a “work in progress.”
Captain Krawczyk served an Ace to open the match and tough serving proved to be a key element in Scotland’s attack with this pressure being maintained by all the team but outstanding serving from Niall Collin was fundamental in the eventual outcome. Consistent passing from Robin Miedzybrodski, Simon Hammond and Libero Mike Penny saw both setters able to structure a positive attack force which was just too strong for the ROI squad.
Middle attackers Alasdair King and Stewart Caldwell saw success in attack and in blocking which again left ROI struggling to cope. In addition to an efficient block the structured defence prevented success from any attacks from ROI, and Scotland continued to put their opponents under pressure as they quickly settled into the match and won the first set at 25 – 7. Set two introduced Gavin Watt, Ryan Macleod and Seain Cook in the starting line-up. Cook added strength by defending well and attacking hard in what was a great first cap at the senior game. The team continued to put ROI under pressure and took set two 25 – 14. In Set three Scotland maintained the mental and physical discipline from sets 1 and 2 and the delivery of consistent passing and a strong attack saw match victory with a final set score of 25 – 11.
Scotland 3 Northern Ireland 0 (25-18; 26-24; 25–11)
Scotland’s opening service saw Northern Ireland immediately reply with determination by winning the side out and bringing the game to Scotland in what was to prove to be a more challenging match. The N.I. squad fought hard to maintain point for point with the Scots and the opening set remained tight as both teams tried to establish structure and control of the game. Libero Simon Hammond quickly established the defence and as the set progressed this began to pay dividend as the ball was progressively controlled by the Scots and a lead began to emerge.
Setter Gavin Watt consistently fed Robin Miedzybrodski at power and Mike Penny in the swing slot, as Scotland took control and saw successive points won by tactical and power attacks. Scotland weere then able to establish a more expansive attack, with strong play in all hitting zones, and this saw the set won at 25 -18.
Set two continued the pressure on Scotland as Northern Ireland established a more consistent defence which allowed them to run a faster attack and were able to open up their middle attack which saw the set remain highly competitive. Outstanding defence from the whole team stopped the NI squad from any real success however they maintained a level that was a challenge throughout, but Scotland was a team who now had winning in their sights and were not prepared to allow NI to establish a lead. Consistent hitting from Miedzybrodski, Penny and Collin, and success in the middle from both Caldwell and King saw the set won at 26 -24.
The start of set three, and the sixth set of the day, saw the departure of Robin Miedzybrodski who was flying back to Manchester rather than Glasgow with the rest of the team, and Ryan MacLeod took up the swing position vacated. Mike penny and Seain Cook kept up the pressure in the power slot and Niall Collins proved to be a force the NI team struggled to contend with. With both setters having controlled the day extremely well it fell to Krawczyk to lead the team to the finish line at 25 – 19, to score a most satisfying 3-0 win.
Can I add my thanks to the team for what was a great day for me in my first venture as head coach of the National Squad, a great display of what is a Team performance and complete professionalism at all times. The offer to put on one of the spare strips and get my first cap in the Senior Team was kind, and my toughest decision of the day, but coaching is the way for me now and let the others fill the void I leave behind on the court.
SMNT – The Team
Alan Krawczyk (C) – Glasgow Mets
Gavin Watt – Amiens Metropole
Neill Collin – Dundee
Seain Cook – Dundee
Ryan MacLeod – Glasgow Mets
Alisdair King – Su Ragazzi
Stewart Caldwell – Kilmarnock Blaze
Robin Miedzybrodski – Leeds Carnegie
Simon Hammond – City of Edinburgh
Mike Penny – City of Edinburgh