JNL Play-offs provide a thrilling finale

The Junior National League finals served off with the girls semi-finals. First up was an exhibition of the great volleyball going on at Marr College as Marr A secured victory against Marr B to become the first team to secure their place in the final, due to the greater hitting weight of the older team was the determining factor in what emerged as a quite clear-cut qualification.
The second semi-final saw NL Ragazzi run very close by a spirited City of Edinburgh side, but at the end of the semi-finals the result was a repeat of the 2012 final, with Marr College taking on NL Ragazzi.
The boys semi-final was of an impressive standard with a good level of power expressed across all teams. City of Edinburgh, after an undefeated regular season out scored QTS Team Ayrshire to a 2-0 victory and secured a second successive U18 final adn a 14th JNL final in 15 years.
South Ayrshire took to the court against Team Lanarkshire for the last spot in the finals. The boys from Lanarkshire used their experience and controlled a close game to win 2-0.
The 3rd place-offs were played with just as much enthusiasm and commitment as the semi-finals, as City of Edinburgh secured 3rd place in the girls league with a straight set victory over Marr College B. QTS team Ayrshire upset the seeding, defeating a young South Ayrshire side 2-0. The team showed real determination to keep the ball off the floor and made clever use of the ball when it was under control.
It was then onto the finals, with the stands turned and filled with parents, friends and supporters. The teams were announced onto the courts and a great game of volleyball commenced. Both teams managed to establish the quick attack well right from the start with Emma Lawrie (Marr) and Mhairi Agnew (Ragazzi) starring in the middle slots, backed up with some impressive and committed defence. With the set poised at 24-23, Lisa Thompson came up with an ace to take the set for Marr College.
NL Ragazzi came out fighting to a 6-4 lead before a string of serves from Jane Drauze-Brown put Marr College in control of the set as they saw out the game 2-0 to be crowned Junior National League U18 Champions.
To round off the day it was over to the boys to see if they could replicate the atmosphere and quality of the girls final. With a great showing from both teams it was Team Lanarkshire who took early control of the set to give them a 1-0 lead in the final. The 2nd set of the match was an extraordinary show of commitment and competition as both teams rallied with each other to try and string a run of points together. It was City of Edinburgh who were the first to gain a sizeable lead as they found themselves 19-16 up after some nice hitting from Wing Spike Connall Tennant before Lanarkshire battled back to 19-19. With the momentum shifting, the young boys from Queensferry upped their level and managed to push to 24-22. Mark McLaughlin’s distribution had been excellent throughout the game and it became vitally important at this stage as this stability allowed Team Lanarkshire to hit back and take the set 27-25 in dramatic circumstances. Jubilant scenes were sparked as the boys celebrated their first Junior National League title.
All four finalists were exceptional and the effort and displays from all teams and coaching staff throughout the day was exemplary.
A massive thanks is due to the 6 referees and to Brian McDougall and Steve Torrance who were there as referee development mentors. It really added to a great showing of volleyball development. Many thanks to the volunteers and the Wishaw Sports Centre staff who were there everything behind the scenes to make the day run smoothly and they performed a sterling job.
Congratulations to all the players, coaches, team mangers, parents and supporters who were involved in the day. You can view the brilliant pictures taken by VolleyballPhotos via this link.

Graeme Spowart

Club & Participation Development Officer

Scottish Volleyball Association