Deans lose final but win admirers

Marcus Russell was Horndean's most valuable player in the shield final
Marcus Russell was Horndean's most valuable player in the shield final
South Hants Ladies are pushing for promotion

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HORNDEAN left the National Volleyball Centre in Kettering with their heads held high despite losing out to Flaming Six Aces in the men’s shield final.

The Deans went into the clash as underdogs, having already lost to the London Premier League’s top team in the preliminary round of the national cup.

But they won themselves a number of fans for putting up an impressive performance in all three sets.

‘I’m very proud of the team. We knew that it was always going to be a hard game for us,’ said Horndean’s head coach Nasser Ssemuwemba.

‘They’re a well-assembled side, comprising of big international players. But we were not fazed by their size or the fact they had thrashed us before.

‘We battled for points and were only let down by a few mistakes here and there.

‘I hope we’ve gained valuable experience by playing in the shield final, which will spur us to greater things in the future.’

The Deans took an early 8-6 lead against Flaming Six Aces through inspirational middle spiker Marcus Russell, who was later named the final’s most valuable player.

However, the Londoners upped their game with a number of successful back-court attacks and running outside hits to take the first set 25-20.

And they kept their momentum going in the second set, racing to a 8-3 lead following some uncharacteristic lapses of communication by Horndean’s defence.

The Deans tried to claw back with powerful attacks by Haakon Lie and off-speed play from Stephen Metherell. But it was too late as Flaming Six Aces wrapped up the set 25-18.

Horndean then made some setting changes, bringing on skipper Stuart McCulley for Benoit Royer in the third set.

The move immediately had an impact on the game as they stormed into a 5-3 lead in a thrilling set that involved a number of prolonged rallies.

And the Deans maintained their strong display, with Maciej Kubis running riot in both attack and defence to keep his side ahead 16-13 at the second time out.

However, any flickering hopes of staying in contention were ended by several hitting errors from Horndean’s attackers that enabled Aces to claim a 25-21 third-set win and the match.