After successfully negotiating their respective semi finals the countries top two teams, City of Edinburgh and Kilmarnock Blaze faced off in this year men’s championship playoff final.
The encounters this year have been close between the sides with each winning their home games during the regular season making Kilmarnock the only team to beat the side from the capital.
The first leg of the final was Kilmarnock’s home tie and the Ayrshire men were keen to get off to a good start in the tie.
As expected the first set was a very close affair with both sides demonstrating excellent volleyball. Kilmarnock managed to establish a set lead with excellent attacking from Euan Duncan but Edinburgh were able to claw the set back to 24-24 with excellent play from their consistent offsetter Niall Collin. Kilmarnock though were able to close the set out with Colin Giles serving two howitzer serves that Edinburgh struggled to deal with giving Killie the first set 26-24.
Edinburgh though carried the momentum from their fight back in the first set into the 2nd and with almost flawless volleyball they easily won the set 17-25, with Mike Penny playing particularly well through the outside.
With the game delicately poised at one set each it was Kilmarnock who stepped up their performance with Stewart Caldwell and Alistair Green scoring consistently to give Kilmarnock the advantage in the set. Blaze maintained their level throughout the set winning it 25-20.
With aggregate scoring being used over the two matches the fourth set had real significance. Both sides were well aware of this and served up a volleyball treat for the impressive crowd. The standard of the volleyball in the set was excellent with both libero’s, Edinburh’s Barry McGuigan and Kilmarnock’s Gordon Welsh demonstrating their class with superb passing and defensive performances.
The quality of the play led to a very close set with neither side able to open up a lead. However at 30-30 the outstanding Colin Giles once again delivered from the service line scoring two aces to give Blaze the set 32-30 and the match 3-1.
In the two legged affair though this was only half time, and although Kilmarnock had the advantage Edinburgh had been in a similar position the previous week in the semi final but demonstrated their class by winning 3-0 on the Sunday.
Kilmarnock though only needed 2 sets to claim the title and were always going to fight to get them after having been beaten finalist in the previous 3 playoff finals.
The 2nd match also demonstrated the high quality of volleyball the two sides have been producing all season. The first set was again very close with both sides managing to side out effectively. Excellent attacking from Edinburgh’s outstanding prospect Jamie McHardy was equaled by Kilmarnock’s experienced Stuart Edgar. However at the crucial point in the set Kilmarnock were able to step up a gear and establish a lead that Edinburgh were not able to close, taking the set 25-23.
This took Blaze even closer to the title with Edinburgh needing to win the next three to force a Golden Set. Edinburgh set about this task well though through in particular Ben Hunter who was almost unstoppable through the middle. The 2nd set was once again very close but at 21-21 Edinburgh stepped up their blocking and with the Kilmarnock attack struggling to score they won the set 25-21.
At one each Edinburgh threatened to recover in the tie and push Kilmarnock into a Golden Set decider. However the men from Ayrshire were not about to let that happen easily and demonstrated a real desire to close the match out in the third. This determination was backed up with Kilmarnock’s best volleyball of the fixture.
Excellent attacking from Kilmarnock youngster Mark Lawson opened what proved to be an unassailable lead in the set and fellow teenager Alistair Green scored the final point to win the set 25-16 and secure Kilmarnock their first championship in four years.
With Kilmarnock taking a 2-1 lead in the fixture the tie was effectively over however with pride at stake both teams still competed and put on a spectacle for the crowd.
Edinburgh fought back in the fourth to tie the game at 2 sets each but fittingly Kilmarnock won the final set to take the game 3 sets to 2 and win the championship for the 14th time in their history.
After the game Kilmarnock coach Stuart Edgar was delighted with the performance saying “We have performed really well over the two games and on balance I think we deserve to be champions. We have been rebuilding and preparing for this for 3 years and I am delighted for the boys.”