State Cup Sydney Success

The Freezone State Cup Squad competed in the 4th and final State Cup tournament for 2012, hosted at Sydney Olympic Park, Homebush over the weekend of 3rd/4th November.  The squad has fielded teams in all 4 State Cup tournaments this year and this final tournament saw us earn a highly respectable 2nd place in B grade.  This is the first ‘placing’ for the squad in these tournaments since it started training earlier this year.

The 2 day tournament fielded 10 teams in the male competition with round robin play between 2 pools over 2 days before being split into A and B grade finals.  Our ‘sister club’ Kaiata, also fielded a team and it was great for us both to be there supporting each other and cheering the other on.  This meant both teams had to compete against ‘A-Grade’ teams and push themselves to be competitive at a very high level.

Perhaps the most exciting match for Freezone was against EWOKS, who have competed and won many Freezone tournaments in the past.  The big hitting and towering Ewoks were plainly put under some pressure as the Freezone team pushed them to close sets.  The score will say 3-0 but the set score reveals a much tighter game.  The highlight of the game was the incredible spirit displayed between both teams.  And I am proud to say, that Freezone were the loudest and most celebratory team on the court.  With a big task ahead, the team gelled and pulled out all they could to push Ewoks in every point.  Jo Wongpitax and Yuthakarn Chakping almost screaming themselves hoarse with encouragement  and chants.  Cheeky points with tips and unexpected ‘Coco-sets’ saw us level pegging and even ahead at times.  Ultimately, Ewoks prevailed with massive hitting from the outside by No.10, but we certainly gave them a great game and the hall was entertained at the same time.

The final day saw us 3rd in our pool which meant we were into the playoffs for the B grade.  The Kaiata team were successful in the first days play winning convincingly in their pool and going into the A Grade draw.

Kaiata’s semi-final against UTS was a hard fought match with well executed plays coming from both sides of the net and rallies lasting beyond the big hits.  Scrambling play and cohesive rotations from Kaiata saw them working well together, but UTS had effective big blocks and Kaiata’s relatively smaller hitters were having to work very hard to get past them.  With both setters working hard to get plays happening, the UTS team finally triumphed in 2 sets.

The 3rd place final was against Sydney Uni and Tanaphat Rukasook and Ponlasit Waekwasak  began to find holes in the defence early on.  Sydney Uni were fighting hard and scoring from their lanky outside hitter, but Kaiata were able to exploit their advantage of speed and dexterity and take out the final for 3rd place.

Freezone’s  first final against UTS2 was a tight game where solid hitting from the middle by Seul-Gi Lee and outside from Max Ulyanov saw us keep our noses in front for most of the match.  UTS2 were mixing up plays and hitting back line spikes and pushing balls long.  Freezone had to dig deep and improve on passing to win the 2nd and 3rd sets and secure a berth in the Gold Medal Playoff.

SCV Pumas, who Freezone convincingly defeated in the Pool Games were our opponents in the final.  But it was clear, as in the words of Michael Pitt “they saved their best til last”.  With a squad of 12 players they had subs for days and the tall, predominantly Chinese players were hitting big from the middle.  The final was tight with the 1st set going to the Pumas after a slow start from Freezone.  The team re-set in the 2nd, with Dion Ofa being very effective in the middle and displaying his usual dexterity and grace on the net, blocking and dumping the ball from wayward passes, much to the frustration of the SCV hitters.  The final set saw the Pumas run away to a 6-2 lead early on with some effective serving.  We kept them at pace, coming even within 2 points at 11-9 and the chanting and encouragement form our players as well as the Kaiata team saw us in great spirits as we fought for ‘every ball, every ball, every ball’.  In the end it was 14-10 and we were pumped to push them to a final last hurrah, but the final serve floated over and out over the baseline to give the Pumas the Gold Medal.

The spirit of the Freezone team and the camaraderie displayed on the court was remarked upon by tournament supervisor Michael Pitt during the medal presentation – after everyone else had gone home, and we all felt an amazing sense of achievement in having played a tournament where we enjoyed every game and were effective in our play and our placement.  Obviously our Wednesday night trainings have paid a dividend and we couldn’t have been more pleased with such a wonderful result.  Congratulations to all.

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