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Sunday, 29 October 2017 22:12

Riga edge epic encounter! Featured

Written by Jon Chetham
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Riga travelled to Keele University looking to extend their winning start but all too aware that NSVC represented a step-up in the level of opposition they had faced so far. Jackie started Riga off well with some strong serves and mid-way through the set, spikes from Alex and Mafalda put the visitors in control. Jackie’s defence and some good blocking off service runs by Sylwia, and then Mafalda, gave Riga the 1st set 25-22.

 

Into the second set and the home team stepped up the pressure through their serving and attacks from position 4. Riga seemed to be struggling but in a period around the 2nd TTO, Clare created kills for Alex and Mim, and from a perfect Jules pass into Clare, Mafalda smashed a cross-court winner. Sylwia made a block and Riga led 17-14. But volleyball momentum is easily lost or gained, and one service error and a lucky deflection over on 2, brought NSVC right back into the set. From 18-18 the Newcastle outside hitters dominated and the match was levelled, 20-25.

The home team continued their strong outside attacks early in the 3rd set. Riga trailed 5-7 but blocks from Sylwia and Mafalda put Riga ahead at the 1st TTO. This was as close as Riga got as Newcastle’s hitters were swinging freely exploiting a lot of free balls as a result of tough serving on the visitors. Susy replaced Jackie, and Marcela came on for Mafalda but the set was gone, 15-25.

The start of the 4th set and Riga’s attack found some penetration until a run of 3 service aces by Staffs #6 put Riga on the back foot again, 6-9. In a difficult period, the visitors could barely find a pass to mount any kind of attack, until Clare grabbed a point with a second-touch volley over into space. Susy jumped in with a service ace, followed by a Mim kill, and Riga were back in the game! Marcela and Susy defended well resulting in two spike winners from Alex as Riga led 16-14 at the TTO. But the home team never stopped believing in the their outside attack and moments later it was 16-17. Now it was a game of nerves – scrambled points and errors saw the lead fluctuate to 23:23. One set point came and went for Riga before a perfect pass-set combination from Susy and Clare set-up an Alex kill for 25-24, and then good defence finally forced a NSVC error for Riga to win the set 26-24, and level the match at 2-2.

Sensing they had “got out of jail”, Riga were galvanised for the final set. Susy led-off with a series of accurate serves resulting in 2 aces and 2 kills for Mim and Alex. Riga led 6-0 only to gradually let it slip away on the back of some poor passing and back-court judgement – from 8-4 at the turn-around, it was 9-9. At 11-10, Mafalda came on as a service substitution and immediately served an ace, putting real pressure on the home team. Two more jump-float serves from Mafalda resulted in a Mim kill and a block to bring up match point … which Riga jubilantly accepted at the first time of asking, 15-10. Match to Riga 3-2, but credit to NSVC who didn’t really deserve to lose.

MVP – Alex Smith

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