Originally published on SportsByte on January 1st 2014.
Sunderland City Predators women’s Volleyball team came from a set behind to beat Wirral to keep their play-off hopes alive.
In their first game of 2014, Sunderland started nervously at CitySpace but overpowered their Liverpool opponents, winning 3-1 (19-25, 25-17, 25-17, 25-20).
The Predators were playing their first match under coach Ste Anderson, who was happy with the performance after that tentative first set.
“It was a mixture of things that went wrong in the first set,” said Anderson.
“I think we were a bit nervy. It was the first game back. Some of the players might have been a little bit nervous, it’s a new coach, it’s going to be slightly different to what we’ve been doing.
“But once they relaxed I was really pleased with the quality that came through, once they shrugged off those nerves.”
Wirral were simply too strong for Sunderland in the early stages, despite the home side’s slight height advantage. Wirral’s movement around the court was much more effective and their play at the net was smarter, with holes in Sunderland’s positioning picked out with ease.
Sunderland did manage to pull the score back impressively though having been 10-20 down at one point, but the six-point deficit was just in a limp opening set.
The second set was much more assured, although Wirral were more disorderly. Sunderland did surrender the lead and were two points down at 6-8 but led from then on, Maria Spanou sealing the equalising set with a smashing volley.
Wirral had no subs, and so had to face a Sunderland side with plenty of options from the bench. The difference in numbers showed, with the away side throwing away sloppy points, but Sunderland were utterly dominant in the third set. They led all the way, winning by eight.
And the final set was a similar story, with Sunderland taking a strong lead at 5-1, extending it to 18-11 and eventually winning by five after a slight wobble in the closing stages.
Sunderland have now won seven games out of 11 this season.
New coach Anderson said: “I’m really pleased. That’s the first game I’ve been involved in. I’m really happy with the squad; everybody played, everybody contributed. It’s only a small group of girls, but I’m really happy with how everybody contributed to the game.
“It’s the same when you take over any new team really. You have a few teething problems, you need to find who your best players are, all that kind of thing. But I’m very, very positive, I was really pleased with how the girls performed, pleased with the way they showed themselves really.
“I’ve had a couple of months training with them, but this is the first fixture I’ve been involved in, and it gives you that little difference knowing who can play in the big games, who can win you points. And the commitment’s been great so far.
“I don’t see why we can’t win our remaining games, and that’ll be a good challenge for them,” Anderson added, as he reiterated the desire to reach the play-offs with league leaders Team Durham out of sight.
“They’re a Super 8s team, really”, said Anderson of Team Durham. “They’ve just had to start in this division.”
The Predators do not play again until February 2, when they face North Riding Eagles – the team Sunderland are currently battling with over the play-off spot in Womens Division 3 North.
A win in North Yorkshire could be pivotal for the Predators’ season aspirations.