There has been a burst in the weather and a change of pools here in Belgium. We moved into the final round today. Kinnaree moved into the B+ Division as they were undefeated in their pool. Phoenix were relegated to the C+ pool even though they won 4 of their 6 possible matches. It shows that sometimes its not how many games you win but how well you lose that determines your placing.
But today was a reversal of circumstances with Kinnaree coming up against the stiff competition this time. Moving up against other stronger teams, they met Woga Love, which is a culmination of various players, but there some bit hands to get past in the block. Our boys looked like teenagers against the height of this team. Kinnaree worked hard to generate some momentum, with some great plays through the middle from Tanaphat Rukasook and Seul Gee Li. Our outside hitters were often shut down by the big block and the boys went down in straight sets but were amping up their play for this new part of the draw. 16/25. 14/25
Their next opponents were the Houston Stars and this saw Kinnaree back into form with some really impressive quick cross down balls from Seul Gi Lee. Coco was working hard with the setting hut the boys really found their rhythm in this match playing long exchanges and waiting for the right moments to mount their attack. They were effectively on front the whole way but did have a tight finish to the final set as the Houston Boys mounted a comeback to get within one or two points. It was an exciting game that saw the boys win in two sets, 25/15. 25/22
Their last game was against a German team SC-Aufruhr, who had their own Thai Players so there was some fierce hitting and lots of tight exchanges at the net. The Germans had a strong outside hitter who was adept at hitting past the Kinnaree block and the boys were failing to manage balls up from the back court. The lads scrambled hard but went down in straight sets, unable to get some real momentum to get inside the defence of the German team. 18/25. 15/25
Phoenix on the other hand had a stunning day today with straight sets victories in all their matches! Any misgivings about not having landed in the B Grade were soon forgotten when we were faced with some strong teams that we really had to work hard against.
Our first game were against the team from Helsinki. The tall Finns were impressive in stature but we were able to keep them at bay with some good sequencing of points and scrambling. It seems Peter and Julas found their rhythm in the setters positions with good adjustments and covering to string together good passes for the hitters. Adam Ferret scored a string of points on his serve in the second set, and put the team well into the lead. Having suffered from points in placings, we made it our goal to keep them in single digits, which we achieved 25/15 25/8.
Our second opponents were a tougher assignment with the team from Frankfurt who were our hitting partners in the warm up session on Monday. We weren’t sure how we would fare but did know that our blocks had to be ON for these guys. Needless to say Dion Hastie turned it on with slam dunks on his blocks, shutting down their outside hitters and frustrating them into mistakes. Our back line were performing really well, chasing down balls and not letting anything touch the ground. Laurent and Ross, pairing up and acquitting themselves really well in defence, which was a weakness that was exploited. It was tight in both sets as the momentum swung between the two teams, and some interesting referee interpretations were making it tense, but Ross settled us all down and we just concentrated on playing our game and running away to victory, 25/23 25/19
Our last game was an aniticipated tough one with te WOGA United crew made up of individuals from all over. We knew we were in for some strong hitting from some of hte hitters, notably the thai boy and girl who were in the make up and a rather large German boy who could have been Wally Salinger in a previous life.
I have to admit that I thought we were in for a defeat at the outset of the match. These guys seemed surprisingly gelled for a ‘thrown together’ team. I didn’t think we had the strength to take them. HOW WRONG I WAS. I can’t tell you the lead that we got away to in the beginning of the set but it was as if everything just clicked for the Phoenix crew at the start of the match. Adam and Julias were setting lovely lofty balls for the outside, Lauren was striking the ball well – and down and Dion was flying like an eagle as always. Ross was thrusting from the back court in defence and just not letting that ball drop at all. I knew we were away to a lead by feel but the WOGA crew called a time out and it was 20/15. I had no idea we could sustain it. But sustain we did, taking the set 25/19.
Gee’d up by our opening victory we kept up the pressure. Their Thai outside was cracking shots at us and Julias copped a couple in the chest but the ball stayed alive. We scrambled really well when we had to and Adam was deliberately placing the ball in small holes in thier defence, along with Miss Celine (Dion) who was just a brick wall on the net. Watching tha boy block is like a chocolate liquer with cherries – sweet as!
it got tight as they started to peg back our lead at 19/15 getting to 20/19, but we just played our game. We weren’t panicking and we simply settled into our ryhthm and didn’t let the mistakes of previous points impact us. getting a 25/21 victory in that set was an amazing performance.
So the end of the third day and we are both going for three matches tomorrow. There will be no final, the WOGA crew choosing to make us play the round robin and then whoever wins on points and percentages at the end of the round will be awarded the medals. No-one will really know who is in the running for medals until ALL matches are complete. it’s going to be an interesting way to end the tournmament.
So we hope to play it well tomorrow with both teams readying for tough matches and uncertain outcomes. With the pool party on tonight, there may be a few late bed entries but nothing like last nights 3am effort. And it wasn’t only our crew, I knew of 5 separate teams that did the same thing last night – such is the fun of hanging out in the outdoor terraces of Antwerp.
If nothing else, we have enjoyed a wonderful tournament thus far with lots of meets and greets and friendships. Again, there are photos but you will have to wait for me to load them up – There may even be enough for a calendar!!!!!!
Also – big thanks to Tommy Yap (Trashy) who discovered our missing panda ball after it went missing on Day 1. Tommy uncovered it by rifling through bags for us – Tommy – we are grateful!