Originally published by SportsByte on November 13th 2012.
Sunderland City Predators were no match for Team Northumbria in the Womens Cup, but a spirited and dogged display will give them great hope for the rest of the season.
The Predators were soundly beaten 3-0 (25-3, 25-11, 25-4) at Sports Central but it was the performance against the best volleyball side in the country that was most pleasing for Sunderland.
Stand-in coach Keith Sowden was delighted with the team, saying: “All of them contributed to the game, it wasn’t as if there was just one star player.
“I know it [the score] looks bad, but they’re [Northumbria] doing this to Super 8 teams every week. I’m over the moon really.”
Northumbria are current Super 8s champions and the gap in quality showed right from the start as the home side raced in to a 13-0 lead.
Despite a dogged and spirited defensive effort from Sunderland, Northumbria were simply bigger, faster and stronger, repeatedly beating the Predators on rallies and out-jumping them at the net.
Slips and mistakes in the first set were capitalised on to the fullest extent and confidence would have surely taken a knock as Northumbria won the first set with complete ease.
But Sunderland came out fighting in the second set, battling even harder on the rallies and putting in some spirited blocks at the front and back of the court.
Sowden said post-match that his aim for the team was to score ten points in one of the sets and Predators’ Ashleigh Hodgkiss said the second set – which saw Sunderland holding their own at 16-8 down at one point – was a big boost for them.
“I think you could tell right at the start a few of the girls got their heads down,” said Hodgkiss. “Then the second set lifted everyone up and everyone enjoyed the third set.”
The final set, though, was nothing more than a formality as Northumbria continued to display the kind of performance that has seen them rise to the top of the Super 8s this season in a 21-point win.
Northumbria progress to the third round of the National Cup but Sowden insists the performance against the champions will give the Predators great belief for the rest of the league season.
“They’ve come off at the end there and just said straight away ‘right, we’re ready for Sunday’,” said Sowden.
“All of the way through they were having to win points from us rather than getting free points,” he added. “We scrapped hard and I think it’ll be really good experience for us.”
Sunderland resume league action this Sunday as they face Derbyshire in the Women’s Division 3 North.