Thursday 5th June saw the Scotland Men’s National Team meet at Glasgow Airport quietly confident ahead of their trip to “The Land of Fire and Ice”, to face Iceland and Luxembourg. As the squad began to assemble in departures, the blend of youth and experience became very evident. Scotland welcomed Olympians Christopher Lamont and Mark McGivern back into the fray and it was Sean Hendry’s first trip with the National Team.
On arriving in Iceland the team headed straight for the competition hall for their first practice session. The focus of the session was side out timing and block defence positioning. It was a very worthwhile practice session and set the tone for the trip. The final practice session on the morning of the match allowed us to refine our systems and begin to focus on the match against Iceland.
Iceland 0 v 3 Scotland (13-25, 15-25, 21-25)
Iceland was playing at home for the first time in 15 years and Scotland ensured it was a bitter homecoming for their hosts with a straight sets victory. Veteran setter Alan Krawzcyk set the tone for the Scots with an impressive run of serves to establish a 4-0 lead and bring about the first time out. Scotland continued to dominate the first set and was assisted by unforced errors from their hosts.
After winning the first set 25-13, there was a danger Scotland would drop their level but this did not happen. Outside hitters Miedzybrodzki and Cook continued to pass and hit with authority and they were ably supported by Glissov in the opposite slot.
The third set was more of a contest with the hosts making fewer errors and asking more questions of the Scots block defence. There was also a cameo from Galloway in the opposite slot where he served, made a dig and then scored the point. McGivern and Lamont stepped up from the service line and also contributed blocks at crucial times to ensure a 3-0 win.
Iceland coach Rogerio Ponticelli said “I would like to congratulate the Scottish team. In my opinion it played a solid match against us.”
Scotland 0 v 3 Luxembourg (22-25, 14-25, 24-26)
After a fired up performance to secure a 3-0 win over Iceland, came an icy showing in a frustrating performance against Luxembourg. In game 1 Scotland had started quickly and not allowed their hosts to settle and Luxembourg did the same to the Scots in game 2.
Luxembourg served with an intensity which constantly disrupted the Scots passing unit and pressured setters Krawzcyk and Brown to set the obvious option. This allowed the Luxembourg block defence to play and cause further problems for the Scots. In spells the Scots were able to play to their level and this offered opportunities to exploit the Luxembourg block defence. Unfortunately these spells were all too brief for the Scots and Luxembourg won the first set.
The second set was close until 12-11 when Luxembourg managed to surge away from the Scots and establish a 2-0 lead. At this point it was looking bleak for the Scots and their woes were added to in the third set when debutant Sean Hendry collided with the post and badly injured his ankle. The injury time out came with Luxembourg leading 21-14 and provided the Scots with a fresh impetus. The Scots started blocking with a focus and Seain Cook scored a run of points through zone 4. With the set tied at 24 all, the Scots threatened to take the match into a fourth set. Unfortunately Luxembourg was able to re-group and close out the match 26-24.
Scotland went to bed on the Saturday night frustrated that they had not demonstrated their level and relying on Luxembourg to ensure a place in the SCD Finals 2015.
The match on the Sunday night started with Iceland playing with flair and determination and this was distressing for the Scots as Iceland won the first set 25-18. It looked as though the Icelanders may establish a 2-0 lead as they had chances with the set tied at 24 all. Luxembourg stole the second set 26-24, securing theirs and Scotland’s places in the 2015 Finals. The match continued to shock as Luxembourg went 2-1 ahead only to be pegged back at 2-2. Both teams had chances to win the fifth set before Luxembourg closed out the match 16-14.
The trip was a successful one for Scotland as the target had been to qualify for the SCD Finals 2015 in Luxembourg. Over the weekend the squad demonstrated the excellence it was capable of and all the players conducted themselves in a professional manner.
I would like to thank all the players who contributed to the programme over the last six months and made it possible for us to achieve our target of qualification. I would also like to thank assistant coach Iain Cook, team manager John Swan and physiotherapist Kenny Watt for all their support during the preparation phase and the tournament itself. A special thank you has to go to Martyn Johnstone and the SVA Office for the invaluable support they have provided over the last six months.
It has been a successful couple of months for Scottish Volleyball and the Men’s National Team are determined to build on this and achieve greater success in the future!
Interim Head Coach