Volleyball: Sunderland City Predators win one, lose one and top the league

Originally published by SportsByte on November 18th 2012.

Sunderland City Predators Women’s Volleyball team won one and lost one in their National League Division 3 North double-header in Middlesbrough.

The win against North Riding Eagles propels the Predators into top spot in the league but they lost to Darkstar Derbyshire which means their gap at the top is just a point.

North Riding Eagles 1 – 3 Sunderland City Predators (25-23, 15-25, 13-25, 22-25)

The Predators came from a set down to win 3-1 against the Eagles but the performance left little to be desired – especially after the morale-boosting performance against Northumbria earlier in the week.

Perhaps the game against Northumbria gave the Predators a little bit too much confidence as they had a poor, lethargic start against the Eagles, finding themselves consistently behind in the first set.

It looked like it was going to be a bad day for the Predators as they found themselves 7-2 down in the second set but they battled back to win the set by ten points and level the match.

The Eagles were less powerful and shorter in height than the Predators but that worked to the home side’s advantage early on as Sunderland failed to get to grips with their short attacks. The Eagles excelled with their blocking, something the Predators struggled with throughout the day.

Sunderland did have some grievances in that they hadn’t been able to train all week and the court floor was – bizarrely – very slippy, to such an extent that it was difficult to move at pace without losing balance.

Predators’ Eve Porter said: “The floor, especially at the start, was a bit of a problem because of how slippy it was but once you got to grips with that it wasn’t too difficult really and it was the same for both teams so if one team can handle it, why can’t the other team?”

But the Predators soon took charge of the game and stormed into the lead with a 13-25 set win. The fourth set was very similar in that they overpowered North Riding for large periods but they lost concentration as the game wore on, going from 10-18 up to 22-24 up in a matter of plays.

The Predators weren’t overly comfortable in any of the four sets but they won through in difficult circumstances against an efficient team.

Porter was disappointed with the performance, saying: “We made it a little bit harder than we should have.

“We lost the first set, we managed to pull it back to two points but there were a lot of serving errors and I think that’s what let us down. And it wasn’t just from one player it was from a lot of players on the team.

“You can see from the scores in the second, third and fourth sets how much better we can play.”

Darkstar Derbyshire 3 – 1 Sunderland City Predators (25-11, 22-25, 25-20, 25-22)

The Predators were handed their first defeat of the season as they lost 3-1 to Darkstar Derbyshire.

Derbyshire – who were also undefeated before the game – were well-organised and efficient in most areas of the court. Sunderland simply couldn’t handle them as they were thrashed 25-11 in the first set.

Derbyshire had a few players who could hit well and, while Sunderland didn’t deal with them, Darkstar utilised them to great effect.

The Predators, though, showed that they can play some excellent volleyball as they won a close second set 22-25. Sunderland’s service game and pressure on their opposition at the net was slowly improving and, in general, the team seemed to grow in stature.

Porter, who impressed from the service line, said: “In the second set we came into it a lot better, serving improved and we just started picking out places to put the ball on their side of the court.”

But Sunderland couldn’t keep up the pressure on Derbyshire who charged into a 22-15 lead in the third set before winning the set by five points. The fourth and final set was a similar story, with Sunderland unable to contain them whilst making slack errors before losing the final set by three. 

While Derbyshire proved themselves as title contenders, there is plenty for Sunderland to improve on. The errors need to be cut out and the blocking could still be more forceful, while there needs to be a lot more dominance on their side of the court.

Porter added: “Sometimes at back-court today it just seemed really sloppy and really lazy at times.”

Sunderland now have a three-week break before they have another double-header when they face Wirral and Darkstar Derbyshire again on 9th December as they look to continue their title challenge.

Sunderland City Predators: Abbey Sowden, Eve Porter, Ashleigh Hodgkiss, Paule Steikunaite, Laura Lord, Alex Laws, Konstantina Spanou, Laura Cave, Hollie Patterson, Maria Spanou.

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