Volleyball: Predators lose to Eagles as play-off hopes fade

Originally published by SportsByte on February 3rd 2014.

Sunderland City Predators women’s Volleyball team were dealt a huge blow in their bid for the play-offs as they were beaten 3-1 by North Riding Eagles in agonising fashion.

They were beaten 25-27, 25-18, 25-18, 32-34 in a game that could prove pivotal for Sunderland’s season given that North Riding currently occupy the play-off spot.

The Predators are aiming for second place in Womens Division 3 North as Team Durham are out of reach at the top the league.

Sunderland started sluggishly, falling behind by eight after briefly leading, but they overpowered the Eagles to level the scores at 20-20, with Maria Spanou starring on the left side with three smashing spikes.

The lead would change hands again but the Predators eventually edged the first set by two.

The home side, though, dominated the second and third sets, with Sunderland unable to work their way back into the game once they found themselves behind. Their confidence dropped and just as North Riding impressed as they took the lead in the game, Sunderland limply conceded both sets.

It was the final set which could pretty much tell the story of the entire match, though. After Sunderland initially fought back from 5-0 down to level the score, both sides then seemed incapable of taking control of the game, with no more than two points separating the sides from 13-15 right up until the end of the set.

The end of the set was something special on its own. Very few volleyball matches will see the score reach 30 – shown by the fact that the scoreboard did not go past 30-30 and had to be put back to 0-0 – but this game went to 32-34 before a team could find two clear winning points.

And even then there was controversy at 31-32 – a Sunderland spike was called out by the referee, despite the linesman’s opposing decision and protestations from Sunderland players. The referee’s decision stood, though, and Sunderland went on to lose the lead and the match.

The result leaves Sunderland third in the league, five points behind North Riding with a game in hand. Sunderland could still make it into the play-offs even if they were to lose to Team Durham – given that losing teams get one point and winning teams get three – but the Eagles would then have to lose both their remaining games to Darlington and Sunderland.

Sunderland have three games remaining, as they travel to Team Durham and Wirral before closing the season at home against the Eagles towards the end of March.

They also have to be wary of Wirral, who are now just a point behind Sunderland having played one more game, after losing to Team Durham but beating City of Salford 2 on Sunday.

Sunderland play Team Durham at Durham University on February 16.

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