Originally published by SportsByte on November 18th 2013.
Sunderland City Predators came away from a contrasting double-header with the results they were expecting, a straight-set win followed by a straight-set loss.
The Predators beat Haughton Darlington 3-0 (23-25, 15-25, 16-25) in comfortable fashion before they were then overpowered by a superior Team Durham side.
The Durham side consisted of American players drafted into the side on scholarships. Durham are a new side but it is clear from their 100% start to the season that they are a cut above the rest in Womens Division 3 North.
A nervy start against Darlington saw Sunderland go 5-0 down, and Sunderland didn’t take the lead in the first set until 15-16. They went on to edge a tight first set by two points, but very little separated the two sides.
Darlington, who are also a new side and are currently bottom of the league, battled well in the second set, but Sunderland were much more dominant. There were a few sloppy errors towards the end as concentration began to slip, but the Predators won by ten clear points.
The final set was then a carbon copy of the second to give Sunderland their fourth win in eight games, and coach Keith Sowden was pleased to be able to come away with a routine win in which everyone played their part.
He said: “I’m reasonably happy with that, I’ve got to say. We started badly in the first game, but by the end of it we’d turned it round.
“This is the first time the girls have had a big squad of 12 players. In some ways that’s good and in some ways it’s not good because some people don’t get court time. But in the first game everyone got on court, which is not an easy thing to manage.”
The second game was a completely different story, though. Durham were taller and more powerful than Sunderland, as coach Sowden said: “If you’ve got power and talent, it’s always going to be tough.”
Whilst Sunderland have one or two players standing at six foot or above, with the rest closer to 5ft 9, Durham had six six-footers who looked like they could compete with any side on their day.
Sunderland lost 9-25, 16-25, 15-25 to Durham, but Sowden was pleased to score 40 points overall against a side that are yet to concede 20 points in a set this season.
“In the second set we said we were going to serve tough, and improve our passing. In the second and third sets we showed that we can compete with them, so I was very pleased with that, and it’s proved that there are some very good players in our squad.
“I’ve said to them that I only want to see us lose one more game this season, and that’s when we play them (Durham) again. Because we can win all the rest of the matches and then aim for second place. Realistically we’re not going to beat Durham. They could play in the top league in the country and they’d probably be second or third, fourth maybe, in that league I think.
“We’ve enjoyed it at the end of the day, we enjoyed playing against them. You do enjoy playing against good teams, trying to compete against them. You’ve got to have a go, and just play as well as you can play which is what, by and large, I think we did. 75 to 80 per cent of the time, the girls did what I wanted and hoped they would do.”
Sunderland do not play again until December 8, when they have a home double-header with Haughton Darlington and City of Salford 2 at CitySpace.
On future games, Sowden said: “I hope they keep a level of consistency. We’ve had some new players come in, some of whom we haven’t seen for a little while. We want the bigger squad, we want to be training with 9, 10, 11 players.
“When you’re training with a consistent level of players you can take that forward and work on things. But I think the girls can be happy with what they’ve done. We’ve come here and got what we thought we would get.”