Blaze finish off the season on fire against Queen’s side

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On the 11th April QUB men’s volleyball team travelled to Ballymoney for their last game of the season.

The home favourites won the first point with Richard Surgenor punishing an overpass into the floor. Points were then traded pretty evenly throughout the opener with patchy play from both sides, until the business end of the set where numerous errors by Blaze and powerful hitting from BFG Patrick Crooks allowed the Students to take the lead 25-22.

In the second set, the team positioned second in the table looked like they were missing both leadership and experience from absentees Jeff Scott and Captain David Park. The losing home team still remained nonchalant around the court, and complacency saw Queen’s dominate thanks to good middle work from John Robb and Chris Irwin. They took the set 25-16.

The third set saw the Ballymoney side pick up their game, perhaps thanks to a few harsh words at the change of sides from young middle Stephen White. Vintage Blaze hitting from Jonathan Workman and Adam Hunter, as well as effective runs of float serves kept up the pressure on the Queen’s defence, taking their threatening middles out of action. Blaze won their first set of the match 25-15.

The fourth continued as the third finished off, with a couple of very long rallies that were made even more interesting by the ball ricocheting off the ceiling. Further confusion at the start of the set between Ballymoney’s hitters meant that QUB took an early lead. Blaze fought back hard, determined not to lose their last match of the season. Queen’s libero Richie Martin and wing spiker Han Lu kept the passes coming, making it difficult for the home side to regain the lead, so the Ballymoney boys played smart, and bullied the weaker passers with a barrage of serves to finish 25-18.

In this match that would go all the way, Queen’s won the toss and chose to receive. Their strategy however backfired, and Ballymoney again tore apart the QUB defence with relentless serving, so the home team went 8-3 up at the switch over. Queen’s fought back again, with setter Andy Martin orchestrating the offence well, letting Queen’s close the gap. Nevertheless, the uphill struggle ahead of the University team proved too much of a task, and Ballymoney came out 15-12 winners in the end.

MVPs for the Match were outside hitters Jonathan Workman from Ballymoney, and Han Lu from Queen’s Uni. Belfast. Thanks go to the faithful Ballymoney fans for all of their support throughout the season, and referees Jonny McClenaghan and Kerry Kirkpatrick.

The Blaze ladies team have also won the First Division of the League, and have secured promotion to the National League next year. This will be challenge for the team, losing a number of strong players next season but the team is young and tightly-knit, and captain Alice Harkness is sure the girls will rise to the challenge. Finally, Blaze is organising a Night At The Races Event at Ballymoney Rugby Club on Friday 20 April, 7.30pm. Horses are still up for sale, and can also be bought on the night. Contact Jonny McClenaghan at johnny@ballymoneyblaze.com for more details. It’s going to be a great night’s banter so come along for a bit of fun!