Fired-up Deans shoot Aces down in flames

Marcus Russell in action for Horndean. Picture: Allan Hutchings (133265-107)
Marcus Russell in action for Horndean. Picture: Allan Hutchings (133265-107)
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Horndean stormed into the national shield semi-finals with an emphatic 3-1 victory over defending champions Flaming Six Aces.

It was an invigorating victory for the Deans who went into the clash as underdogs.

Last season they lost to the London League premier division top dogs in the national cup and then again in the final of the shield.

This time Horndean exacted revenge to set up a semi-final clash away to Exeter Storm.

They had to overcome some early distractions as the Deans were not happy with the standard of the London venue.

But the team showed plenty of resolve to remain on track in their bid to go one better and lift the trophy.

Horndean’s skipper Stephen Metherell paid tribute to the side for getting the job done.

He said: ‘I want to thank all the players for this massive win.

‘It was a good revenge to beat Flaming Six Aces on their own court, despite all the obstructions.

‘We’ve got this little winning run going on and I hope we can maintain it.’

Flaming Six Aces dominated the majority of the first set but could not close up after building a substantial lead.

This allowed Horndean to recover and snatch the set 25-22 – thanks to brilliant serves from Leandros Tsikras and Metherell.

Both teams served hard in the second set, putting pressure on the liberos.

However, it was the home team who managed to get their noses in front with an 8-7 lead by the first technical time out.

Marcus Russell then took charge with solid blocks and powerful hits to help his side take a 16-15 advantage.

Despite the London team’s ferocious back-court attacks, the Deans went on to secure a 25-21 set victory.

The hosts hit back with a scintillating 25-13 third set triumph as they exploited every Horndean weakness.

Tsikras admitted that was a tough spell in the game for the Deans.

He said: ‘We were totally outplayed in that set.

‘Everything went wrong for us and we were punished for every single mistake that we made.

‘My job was to lift the team up again in the following set.’

The Greek setter’s motivation and drive was evident in switching the momentum back to the Deans.

Tsikras fed in-form attackers Russell and Haakon Lie with the right sets to pierce through their opponents tight blocks.

And the duo’s fighting display, together with Maciej Kubis’ well-placed serves, helped Horndean to wrap up the fourth set 25-17.

That made it 10 wins on the bounce for the impressive Deans.

Their resilience will be further put to the test when they play Exeter Storm away in the national shield semi-finals on a date yet to be confirmed.

Russell feels the team must get out of the habit of dropping their level during matches.

He said: ‘We always make it difficult for ourselves.

‘I’m pleased we eventually won. And I also acknowledge the fact the sports hall was not up to the standards of hosting a match of this magnitude.

‘But I’m also disappointed at the manner in which we played.

‘When you are playing against a team of Flaming Six Aces’ calibre, you do not need to make so many individual mistakes like we did.

‘We need to be able to do the simple things right.’

The Deans will now turn their attention back to their National League division two south campaign.

They will take on Cardiff Celts on Saturday, February 15 at Highbury College.