Well the competition has definetly picked up here in Cologne! We have moved into the double elimination rounds as of Wednesday and you can feel the intensity beginning to rise as teams get more anxious, chants get louder, crowds get bigger and the support between teams starts to lift and be decisive!
Double elimination sees two pools at the beginning, a winning pool in which everyone starts and a losers pool. This means that you can lose one game and move across to the losers pool before you face instant elimination. The Studs were ranked 14th out of 32 teams so we were sitting well in the middle of the pack.
After a little bit of an unsettling beginning to our campaign where consistency seemed to wax and wane at times, Wednesday saw the Studs settle in our first game against the Belgian BGS Disconnections and come out with a convincing 2-0 victory (25/9 27/25). The second set almost got away from the Studs as the Belgians found holes in our defense and started to string together a few points on the run. Fortunately we were able to peg back the lead and then go point for point towards the end of the set before finally settling in to win the game in a tight 2nd set.
The next game was against the fiery Peurto Rican side TAINOS. We knew from the outset that these guys were harsh competitiors and they certainly proved it , even in the warm up firing harsh spikes directly at us!!! We started well against them but their level of play was high and the Studs were taken to a real stretch in the first set before we managed to regroup, find some height on the net in blocking and get some triple blocks in there and put some points on the board. We were plainly outclassed in a 0-2 straight sets loss but we gave ourselves some respect with a 12/25 14/25 game.
This saw us drop into the losers bracket which meant we were still in the hunt for the finals and still able to compete for medals. Our one life used up it was now do or die. We had to turn around immediately and meet more tanned players in the Piadina side from Italy. They were fresh and we had to regroup after our humbling and take it back onto our side of the court.
Good solid leadership from within the team from our Captain James, Warrick and the ever impressive and totally stunning Le Stud- Jo, saw the first set go very tightly to a nail biting finish. The Italians were up by a good 6 point at times but we clawed our way back to put some pressure on them, and managed a 23/25 loss in the first set. But the 2nd set was all ours! With confidence brimming at our fight-back (a quality that is fast becoming a trademark) we took it to the Italians and set about exploiting some holes in their play. Captain James just proving awesome on the net with short sharp and hard hitting cross court spikes landing right on the 3 meter line. Studs take the 2nd set impressively 25/14.
Initially we got away to a good start in the third but then a lapse in momentum saw the Italians fight back as their quick middle hitters started to penetrate! It was point for point after some tight scrambling and the Studs were behind the 8 ball. Long rallies with safe shots and patient hitting were the order from both teams, the Studs proving just enough to get ahead at the final whistle and win the third 16/14. Utterly nerve racking and incredibly tense points meant it could have gone either way. It was one of those games where it was sad to have a losing team. The spirit of the game was very competitive but also very warm and encouraging!
As always our ever growing cheer squad proved a most decisive factor and we were also joined by our Houston Hussie boys who stayed around for both our final games to cheer us on. ‘Aussie Aussie Aussie’ chants galore and lots of flag waving and clapping were a brilliant lift for us and we were all very, very happy after the final play of the day to come out victors.
The tournament is really going into overdrive now and the teams are really getting vocal and supportive of other teams. Nationalities pull together and partner supporters are camping at out at others games in an effort to supply vocal support. The level of volleyball is quite intense and the pressure is palpable. Team spirit is a decisive factor and I think this is a winning combination for the tight Studs team.
With a hearty Spanish Feast in our bellies after the days play we are ready for tomorrow’s competition. We expect it to be a tough day and a very intense one, but the Studs are looking good for getting across into the final rounds – BRING IT HOME STUDDIES!!!!!