Wessex Leaf Under 15 boys travelled to Kettering to play in the Last 6’s of the National Cup on Saturday. With half of the squad never having played six a side volleyball before this season the team had done well to come through the South West round at Croyde and the Southern region round in Reading to reach these finals. Certainly the Wessex Leaf boys weren’t seen as favourites to get out of the pool but with talented players who had trained hard the coaching staff were sure that the team could spring a surprise.
Beating Richmond was the key to getting to the semi final and Wessex started well with strong hitting from Dan Harwood and Ed Van Wingerden. The serving was good and any attacks set up by Richmond were blocked by Tom Sear. Setter, Austin Pearce, used the accurate passing from Niko Gleed to spread the attack as Jordan West and Jack Williams scored winners on the wings. The first set went to Wessex Leaf 25-18. Richmond had a talented squad of overseas players and their skill level showed in the second set as Wessex dropped a level. Despite a late fight back, Richmond took the set 25-23. Now the Wessex supporters were concerned but, with the aid of strong serving from Pearce and Williams, they gained a good lead in the third. Gleed and Iraj Safaee continued to pass well which allowed West to score point after point from his line hitting. A couple of good middle smashes from Sear and big hits from Harwood finished the set off 15-8.
The Wessex Leaf boys were in the semi and had to face the fancied Chadwell Heath team. Now Wessex showed everybody just how good they had become. It was a dream set with some fantastic serving causing Chadwell problems. All the players were excelling, although the pick was probably Van Wingerden who gave a faultless performance. 25-11. Chadwell are a team of fighters though and they took a large lead in the second set. A time out got Wessex back on track and with West hammering the ball home they started to close the gap. A missed serve cost them and the set was lost 25-21. Into another decider and Sear’s block set Wessex Leaf on their way. With a place in the Final at stake the Wessex Leaf boys stepped up with strong smashes from Harwood, Van Wingerden and Williams. Niral Kerai came on to add more service pressure and the set was won 15-7 in another terrific team display.
The boys had exceeded expectations and knew that the Final against Boswells would be very tough especially as they had played an extra two sets of volleyball. Boswells had the star player in Ryan Poole and he looked the part with big hits and tough serves. A block from Van Wingerden and Pearce helped Wessex to keep the scores level at the start of the match. Boswells were winning the front court play but the tough Wessex serving, particularly from Williams, caused Boswells problems. West came up with a couple of tips and Sear used his height to block the middle attacks. The set could have gone either way but some jump top spin serving from Poole cost Wessex Leaf four points in a row. A great pick up from Harwood showed that Wessex were still fighting but they couldn’t close the gap. 25-22 to Boswells.
The Wessex Leaf boys fell behind at the start of the second set and started to look tired. Great backcourt play from Kerai, Gleed and Safaee kept Wessex in it and when Owen McNeil came on to block, Wessex got the serve back. A couple of points later though the Boswells strength proved too much and the match was lost 25-19. Boswells were the deserved winners but it was a brilliant effort from the Wessex Leaf boys who have the potential to do even better next season.
Squad Dan Harwood (15 – Leaf) Ed Van Wingerden (14 – Highcliffe) Austin Pearce (14- Poole Gr)
Jordan West (15- Leaf) Tom Sear (15 – Arnewood) Jack Williams (14 – Burgate) Niko Gleed (13- Leaf) Iraj Safaee (13 – BCS) Niral Kerai (13 – Poole Gr) Owen McNeil (14 – Poole Gr) Alex Beveridge (14 – Leaf)
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