Day 5 – Finals Day
And The Studs stand proudly amongst the final 6 to be playing on the last day of play. We have pushed ourselves hard, fought when we had to, imbibed all sorts of worthy praise to all manner of beings and looked to our staunchly effervescent support crew and pulled ourselves into medal contention. It is so exciting to be in this stage of the competition and amongst the only 6 teams still left standing!
Our first game is 10am, a bad omen for the Studs as we have yet to win a 10am the entire tournament! We arrive and begin the warm up against a team made up of Brazilian, Mexican and Portuguese players. Aqua Miami (who aren’t from Miami at all, that’s just their sauna sponsor!!!) have played hard all tournament and they opened against us with a series of serves that we just couldn’t seem to stop. At 15/3 down, The Studs were in trouble. We were trying to string some consistency together but the 10am slot just isn’t our time and we had to suffer a 25/7 defeat in the first set.
The second set was much better with more consistency on the court and better use of the front play with some sensible hits from Jo King who spotted the hole in position 1 and 5 on the Miami defence. Jo made good use of these holes and the rest of the Studs tried valiantly to follow her lead. We made a good go at the point for point play but another string of serves into our back line saw the Aqua Miami run away from us in the 2nd set to a 25/15 victory.
This knocked the Studs out of medal contention but we were not finished yet. There was still some pride to be salvaged and now we were determined to make 5th place. Not a medal but a worthy prize worth fighting for on the tally. Our next game was against the rather deliciously delightful, Plan B from Hamburg, Germany! There had been talk of certain members of Plan B being spotted before in the showers with reasonably, shall we say, valid accoutrement? The most illustrious being the outside hitter No.2! There were dibs taken on who got to give the Koala to No.2! I think in the end it was Jeffrey So who come off the net skipping like a schoolgirl!!!
Whilst we were focussed on making sure we played hard and well, we also knew that we were going to enjoy ourselves in this game and be able to have some fun with it. The nice thing was that the Germans were of a similar frame of mind, which was a great relief rather than having to deal with some of the attitude being thrown around on Court 3 from the Peurto Rican teams!
The Germans in this tournament all have a very similar way of chanting! It’s not so much a chant as a consistent long drone that emanates from the other side of the court! Thankfully our cheer squad were once again in full voice and ‘Waltzing Matilda’ and even an emotion charged rendition of ‘Advance Australia Fair’ began to compete with the Germans ‘Punkton’ (point) chant. The flip side of this was that our cheer squad began taking up the chant of the Germans and twisting it into our own ‘lewd’ version! Not very Australian at all is it – or Freezone for that matter! It had us all laughing before the match even got underway.
A relaxed Stud is a happy Stud – it’s also a winning Stud! We seemingly cruised through the first set with serves and points going either way between the two sides, but the Studs always managed to keep their noses in front! Perhaps it was the added motivation that any missed serves incurred a ‘beer round’ penalty! There were two main hitters in the Plan B attack and No.2 was the damage control. But again we played a strong enough defence to limit his range and made some decent headway early on. Suitably enough, with good 1,2,3 (or Eins, Zwei, Drei – which I don’t think our cheer squad got correct at any one point in the game) combinations from us, we managed to maintain our lead and win the first set 25/20.
The second set was a slower start for the Studs, again facing a string of serves from the German team before pegging back the lead to within a point to point regime. Again Le Stud utilised our strategy and got us to start pushing the ball wide along the net to mix up the play. Our blockers began to find some form in shutting down the hitters, including the illustrious No.2, but I think most of the boys were all just a little fascinated with his ability or moreso his loud brutish grunting roar as he hit each crosscourt sweeping spike – ahhhhhh so pretty!
But we had our own grunters and Wazza and James did an excellent job in hitting the mark many times off floating loping sets that were as beautiful as a rainbow flag from Stud-Puppy. A string of serves from Stud Puppy helped put us back in contention and we began to peg that lead back again. At this point it might be worth mentioning that there is a reason why we were always ‘coming from behind’. It would appear Mr Khaicy has much to answer for with his training of “its 23/19 – who’s going to win” as we found ourselves CONTINUALLY in this position and CONTINUALLY we managed to pull ourselves out of a hole and back to 23/23. Thanks Albert!
So once we had achieved this effect yet again in the 2nd, with a lofty Stud Puppy set up to our outside hitter and Wazza slamming a gem down onto the mat, the Studs celebrated a straight sets victory over Plan B (GER) – 25/20 26/24. A close finish but a finish nonetheless and this saw The Studs claim the 5th position and finish the tournament on an absolute winning high! I think we all felt that we may as well have won a medal as we were so happy with what had been achieved. Congrats all round from all players and supporters and both The Studs and Plan B stood proud at the end of the tournament.
It has to be said, as a Gay Games virgin, the excitement at finishing in such a high ranking in a really tightly contested and hard fought Division makes me very proud! If you could see the level of play that has happened over the past 5 days, to make the final cut of this division is absolutely a thrill. Not only that, but our refereeing and sportsmanship off the court was also noted upon. Throughout the tournament as referees, Warrick, Jo and Darrin did a superlative job in conducting the game equitably, fairly and with great professional standard. A lot of the refereeing may not have been up to scratch, but when the Studs took the chair, every team knew they were going to get a great standard of umpiring and this was commented upon by officials and players across the board!
The Studs and Stud-porters were a real hit in both halls of the tournament, and so many players and officials alike were impressed with the way that we played the tournament, the spirit in which we conducted ourselves and the accomplishment of our merits and camaraderie. Team Sydney and The Studs definetly walk away from these Gay Games and this tounament with a very fine reputation and a real impression being left as a competitive and accomplished team of wonderful participants and athletes.
I am so proud to have been a part of this very special journey and achievement. I feel very blessed to have been given the opportunity to experience the excitement, the friendship and the incredible physical challenge of a week long volleyball tournament inside and amongst the wider sports community event that is the Gay Games. It really is the most friendly games you can imagine and in walking around the streets and being greeted with smiles, having people openly talk to you on trains and everyone enjoying the atmosphere and good will, you cannot help but feel that the world is simply a better place because of it. I cannot recommend highly enough the value and sheer delight at being involved with such a wonderful team and such a brilliant event! All I can say is to anyone who is thinking that this is something you might enjoy – GET READY FOR CLEVELAND 2014!!!