FRIDAY 9th November saw the biggest game of Week 2 in the Northern Ireland volleyball men’s National League as Ballymoney Blaze 1sts travelled to Richhill to play last year’s league champions.
After travel delays the Blaze players were not able to get a full warm up and this showed in their first set performance.
Technical and unforced errors crept into Ballymoney’s game as the Raiders were clinical especially with defence. This aided Richhill’s captain and setter Mark Fulton to spread the attack well causing disruption on the Ballymoney side of the net. Richhill ran out easy winners 25-13.
Fired with the burning desire to take back what Richhill had won Blaze found a new level of determination. This was the start of something that would give Ballymoney an inspiring lift. Blaze MVP Jeffrey Scott started doing wonders through the middle stopping the Raiders attack from all parts of the net as well as adding some points for himself on offense. This was backed up by Jonathan Workman being productive as usual in back court not bring afraid to hit the ground even if it meant risking injury. As a team Blaze were able to finish points at will with little resistance coming from the Raiders. Unfortunately this caught up with the Blaze boys as competence set in and Richhill closed the gap but it was Workman who finished the set by wiping off Richhill’s middle blocker. The set finished 25-21 to Blaze.
Set 3 started with both sides wanting to get one up on their main rivals but the player to shine in this set for Ballymoney was captain David Park and his splendiferous form of setting. This splendid display was anchored in by consistent hard hitting from the big man himself Adam Hunter who despite playing with illness put in a performance to the same standard as what he puts in each week.
Unfortunately as Raiders outside Stuart Hamilton went up to punish an overpass cross court, disaster struck for Ballymoney as Workman really did risk all as he dove to his strong side and landed hard on his shoulder. This left Ballymoney with no other option but to call a time out, who then received the option to call a medical time out which lasts 3 minutes.
Play had stopped for 3 and a half minutes at this stage. With discomfort and pain Workman battled on with the same passion and desire we have grown to know and love. It was however too little too late as Richhill regrouped and pulled ahead to win the 3rd 25-21.
Going into the 4th of a best 3 out of 5 set match both teams didn’t want to let the other gain any lead no matter how small the margin. The Raiders were targeting Callum Currie and Aaron McKendry on serve receive but the two solid passers made good use of the Richhill serve allowing for Park to let go of his training wheels in his new position as setter. It was because of this accurate and precise passing that Park was able to give the best possible opportunities for our attackers to get some points on the board. Jason Smith was able to make his mark on the game with strategically placed ‘tips’ used to eliminate the Raiders setter from the game thus weakening the Richhill attack. Although with the experience of the Raiders players they were able to cope with the forced changes to their play and closed out the set and match with a well constructed block. Richhill won the set 25-20 and the match 3-1.
MVP Jeffrey Scott said after the game; “I am very happy with the team’s performance especially with having a weakened side, there will be a huge opportunity to reverse the score line at the return fixture.”
Ballymoney’s next game is against Belfast Olympia at Methody College, Belfast on Tuesday 25th November at 7pm. The next home game is Monday 26th November against Lisburn Lynx. Any and all spectators are welcome to join the crowd at the sports hall, more commonly known in volleyball as Fortress Dalriada.