Originally published on SportsByte on February 4th, 2014.
Sunderland City Predators lost out in their crucial title decider as Manchester Marvels beat them in straight sets at Sugden Sports Centre on Sunday.
The game lasted just an hour and a half – although Sunderland matched their Manchester opponents for large parts of the game regardless of the 3-0 (25-16, 27-25, 25-22) scoreline.
Predators coach Keith Sowden was optimistic after the game: “The intent was good, the desire was good. It was always going to be difficult for us as a much smaller team but I thought they did really well. I think if we’d had one more hitter on the day we’d have beaten them.
“It was the height that caused us problems more than anything.
“We over-passed a few times and we don’t really have the strength in the blocking department. They served deep on us which gave us problems, which we half-addressed and half didn’t.
“But I thought we equipped ourselves pretty well. I was really pleased with the girls,” Sowden added as Sunderland allowed Manchester to go two points clear at the top of Womens Division 3 North.
Sunderland, playing their first game for almost a month, came up against a Manchester side with an overpowering attack and a determined defence. Sunderland were lackluster and very quiet in their play in the first set, losing by nine to a much more vociferous team.
The three hour early-morning journey to Manchester was not the best preparation for the Wearsiders and it showed in the first set as concentration and energy waned and simple errors were conceded.
The second set, though, was where the true Predators emerged, as they kept within touching distance of the Marvels before taking the lead at 24-25.
They were unfortunate to lose the second set as they lead so late into it, but they threw the lead away as Manchester claimed three simple points to extend their lead in the game.
And the home side’s quality showed in the final set as they raced into a seven point lead at 21-14, before finally sealing the win by three points after some sloppy play, as well as a slight spirited fightback from Sunderland.
Star player Eve Porter conceded that Manchester were simply too good for Sunderland at the Sports Centre.
She said: “They were a tall team so they were blocking and attacking really well. We did play well, there were just a few too many errors.
“It would have been nice to get a set from them but it wasn’t meant to be. On the day they were the better team.”
While matching Manchester seemed perfectly attainable for the Predators, beating them always seemed to be just out of their grasp, as shown in the loss of the narrow second set, 27-25.
Sowden added: “We were matching them point for point, but before you know it you’ve gone 4, 5, 6 down and then you’ve got to come back.”
Sunderland now find themselves around mid-table in Division 3, but they only have the lesser teams to play before the season’s end and Sowden is full of confidence for the rest of the season.
“We just need to work hard between now and the next fixture with new players coming in and try and gel together.
“They’ve still got a chance of, if not winning the league, at least reaching the playoffs.”
Porter added: “There are four more games left of the season so we are hoping to have a good end to the season and finish in a good position.”
SportsByte Star Player: Abby Sowden was at the centre of the Predators’ play throughout the game and created countless chances from all over the court.