3rd in National Cup for Wessex U18 Men

Wessex Junior Men travelled to Kettering for the Last 8’s of the National Under 18 Volleyball Cup. Wessex were reigning Champions and went into the event unbeaten this season but having lost some of the older players they knew they faced an uphill task.

The young squad led by setter Austin Pearce and England Junior Jack Williams included three 15 year olds and three 16 years olds had their first match v Essex B. A couple of good smashes from Johannes March-Ludick gave Wessex a good start which they soon build upon. A few errors and missed communication saw Essex close the gap but Iraj Safaee stepped in to set accurately from broken play. The set was won 25-23. The second set was more comfortable with Owen Turner bringing some control which allowed Pearce to set Williams up for unreturnable power smashes. It was Pearce with a run of 9 serves who brought the match to a close with a 25-15 win.

Next opponents were Newcastle. Much the same pattern of play followed in this match. Williams looking the class act while Owen McNeil worked tirelessly in the middle. Jamie Harwood, James Scott and Iraj Safaee kept the passing flowing to Pearce before Harwood’s fine run of serves saw Wessex home 25-21. Jon Donnelly played his part in the 2nd set but it was Niral Kerai’s serving that boosted Wessex to a 25-19 win.

Wessex were now in the semi final but still had to play Greenhouse, London. The London team were one of the favourites for the Cup this season and their experience proved far too much for an unfocused Wessex in the first set. To their credit the Wessex boys recovered to put in a fine performance in the second set. With the whole squad playing their part Wessex got to 24-24 before losing the final two points.

This loss meant Wessex had to play old rivals Boswells in the semi. Boswells had an exceptional team but Wessex matched them in the early stages of the first set. Fine serving and passing kept Wessex level and with Williams hitting winners the teams reached half way without a point between them. A late run of points though saw Boswells take the set 25-19. The second set was a different affair and one set too many for the Wessex youngsters. Apart from a few pluses and a McNeil smash, Boswells bossed the set with superior blocking and hitting before winning 25-12.

Well done to the Wessex team whose semi final position ranks them joint 3rd in the country.

Squad – Austin Pearce, Jack Williams, Owen McNeil, Niral Kerai, Jamie Harwood, Iraj Safaee, Johannes March-Ludick, James Scott, Owen Turner, Jon Donnelly.