Wessex Under 18 Men Last 8’s in Kettering
25th March 2018
Having come second in their Round 2 in February, the U18’s had a tough group at the Last 8’s. However, they were boosted by the availability of 1st teamer Jack Williams, already a full England international, and new recruit, Gabriel Negara.
Wessex played Boswells, Chelmsford in their first match. Powerful hitting by Iraj Safaee and Jack Williams kept Wessex level early on and with Williams hitting brilliantly off the block the match looked as though it could go either way. Captain Williams and Safaee led the team by example and were aided by varied serving by Rufus Morgan and great backcourt by James Scott. Wessex had no real blocking answer to the Boswells power hitting though as the Essex side won 25-22, 25-18.
Next up were Black Country from the Midlands. Tom Nicholas spread the ball round the hitters and particularly Owen McNeil came into his own through the middle. After winning the first set 25-22 and then moving into a clear lead late in the second set, the team seemed to slow down and allowed Black Country to claw back the deficit and win the set 23-25. Early in the third set, Tom Nicholas turned his ankle, ruling him out for the rest of the day. Ellis Phillips took over setting duties and despite early nervousness, kept the big Wessex smashers attacking Black Country. Luke Honeybun made a key block late in the third set, to give Wessex the third set 15-10, for a 2-1 win.
Wessex’ final group match was against old rivals, EBC Greenhouse Malory, London. Again, Jack Williams showed his class and Gabriel Negara’s height through the middle allowed him to make key blocks and attacks. Wessex pushed Greenhouse close but the Londoners sneaked the last point to win the first set 25-23. Wessex stormed ahead in the second set, with Owen McNeil becoming unstoppable and Jon Donnelly serving well, resulted in Wessex winning 25-21. The third set was tight with excellent serving from Negara and Honeybun putting Greenhouse under pressure. The Wessex team spirit was really positive but a couple of tired hitting errors gave Greenhouse the advantage as they edged ahead to win 15-12 and the match by 2-1.
(back L-R) Tom Nicholas, Owen McNeil, Jack Williams, Iraj Safaee, Luke Honeybun, Gabriel Negara
(front L-R) Jon Donnelly, James Scott, Rufus Morgan, Michael Bryan, Ellis Phillips.
Everybody wishes Tom Nicholas a quick and complete recovery from his broken ankle.