Marr and South Top of the JNL Christmas Tree

TEdinburgh Blockhere was double joy for Ayrshire representatives in the Schelde Sports Junior National League as Marr College and South Ayrshire became the first-ever winners of the revamped Under 18 JNL.

Following a review in May, the JNL age groups were lowered by one year, to U18 and U15, and the entire competition phase at U18 level was scheduled for the first half of the season.

South Ayrshire were the first team to book their finals place, with a clear and deserved victory over first-time qualifiers Cavalry Park NUVOC, and they were joined in the final by City of Edinburgh, who qualified for their 13th final in 14 years under Ian Brownlee, coming from one set down to oCP NUVOCvercome Team Lanarkshire in three close sets.

In the girls competition, Marr College ‘A’ were made to work hard in the early phases by their own ‘B’ team, but the greater hitting weight of the older team was the determining factor in what emerged as a quite clear-cut qualification.  The finals line-up was completed by NL Ragazzi, who overcame a tenacious North Lanarkshire challenge to make their third JNL final in succession.

Third place in the boys event was claimed by Team Lanarkshire, who overcame their disappointment at missing out on a finals place with a polished performance against Cavalry Park NUVOC, while Marr College ‘B’ overcame their inferior seeding to take bronze in the girls with a three sets victory over North Lanarkshire.

The early exchanges in the girls final were dominated by Marr College, with Scotland Junior international Katie Barbour in imperious hitting form, and Marr took the set 25-17. NL Ragazzi gave a much better display of their ability in the second period, with wing spikers Michelle Allan and Emma Wotherspoon the pick of the bunch.

The teMhari Blockams traded sideouts through to the closing stages, when Marr College make a crucial breakthrough off Jane Drauze-Brown’s second serving spell, and had an opportunity to serve from the match.  However a kill-block from Mhairi Agnew on Barbour saved the first match ball, and NL Ragazzi levelled things up to 24-24, before taking the set 27-25, aided by a further three Agnew kill-blocks.

Marr regrouped for the deciding set, and opened up a seemingly-unassailable 10-5 lead, with Barbour again the chief offensive weapon.  A timeout seemed to put new vigour into the NL Ragazzi hearts, and they picked up a string of points, firing through all zones, to get back to 11-14 down.  Two service aces from Michelle Allan in a three point sequence brought the scores level again, before a line drive and a cross-court looper from Barbour proved decisive for Marr College to take the set 16-14.

Katie Barbour was named as the MVP for Marr College, with Mhairi Agnew picking up the honours for NL Ragazzi.

Marr College

The boys final was no less thrilling, and again there was no clear dominance in the early phases as the teams traded sideouts on the first tempo.  However with South Ayrshire 6-8 in deficit, power hitter Stuart Morrison burst the tie open with a string of nine unanswered service attempts, as South were able to open up their back row attack, featuring Morrison and Scott Wilson.  Edinburgh’s spirits seemed to droop, as South setter Matt Russell had the pick of a hungry attack to target.  However, just when it seemed that South would run away with the match, an Edinburgh timeout at 12-20 brought positive returns, and Edinburgh staged a mini-revival, with Craig Brown and Jonny Black prominent in the offence. South were forced to go back to route-one volleyball, and eventually took the set 25-23 in a shade under 30 minutes.

South proved dominant in the second set, as Matt Russell got them off to a 6-0 lead from the service line, and South’s tactical serving prevented Edinburgh from running many of their preferred sideout options.  Ross McKelvie was proving to be an immovable object in the blocking phase, and although Edinburgh captain Rhys Arthur worked hard to mount something off his passing unit, South always seemed to have the defensive answers.  A string of six serves from Harry Briggs, including a no-touch ace to win the game, saw South Ayrshire home 25-12 to maintain a perfect 10-0 record for the Prestwick side.

The MVP awards were made to the two setters, Rhys Arthur (City of Edinburgh) and Matt Russell (South Ayrshire), as both led their teams well on the day.

South Ayrshire


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