Newcastle women’s volleyball 1’s have endured a difficult start to the season, but they demonstrated quality and courage to battle to a 3-2 win against a talented Sheffield Hallam side.
The first set was dominated by Hallam, who caused issues for the Newcastle team with strong serving and resolute blocking. Hallam eased to a 25-11 win, and on this early performance Newcastle’s chances of victory were not promising.
However, Newcastle seemed reinvigorated in the second set, playing with an increased intensity and forcing mistakes from Hallam. Maria Shipilli in particular was responding well to some fierce efforts from Hallam, and with the scores tied at 13-13 it was unclear which way the set would go. Shipilli and Berkem kept applying pressure with powerful and accurate serves and Nikou created a multitude of chances by setting the ball well, but Hallam responded well and the scores were soon 20-20.
Despite the game being even thus far, Hallam seemed to crumble as Newcastle kept the tempo high, and after some poor Hallam serves Newcastle had claimed their first set.
The third set started with a super block from Grigalyte and some well-worked play to set up Berkem for a stunning shot, with these early stages being a glimpse of what was to follow. Nikou and Berkem combined to salvage the ball when a Hallam point looked certain, and followed it up with a venomous strike to earn a point. Hallam were docked points for using the wrong server, and this allowed Newcastle to establish a dominant lead that they never looked like losing. They threw themselves at everything and refused to let any of Hallam’s efforts hit the floor, and this battling spirit was reflected in the eventual 25-18 scoreline.
Hallam knew that they needed to win the fourth set to have a chance at an overall victory and beagn to play as such, racing into a 14-6 lead. Newcastle endeavoured to whittle away at that lead, but it proved to be insurmountable, with Hallam winning 25-20 to force a fifth and final set.
Hallam took a 4-0 lead in the final set, with Newcastle seeming to lose composure, communication and concentration when they needed them most. At 11-6 to Hallam the game looked to be all but lost, yet Newcastle began to rediscover their rhythm. They kept racking up points, managing to equalise at 13-13 before taking a 14-13 lead.
The momentum had evidently swung in favour of the home side and there was some considerable noise from those gathered to watch, and when a Hallam mistake sealed Newcastle’s victory there were deservedly jubilant celebrations. Newcastle’s 3-2 win wasn’t the most comfortable victory but they demonstrated their quality and resilience, claiming their first win of the season and giving them some confidence as they face an away tie against dominant league leaders Durham next week.