Deans complete perfect prep for Shield assault

Marcus Russell. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (120869-3)
Marcus Russell. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (120869-3)
Josh Green in action for England under-17s at the NEVZA Championshi. Picture: Hamistolen Photography

Green buoyant after his first international abroad

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Horndean will head to Kettering for Saturday’s National Shield final in positive mood.

The Deans recorded two magnificent victories in the National League division two south last weekend.

They celebrated a double triumph with a 3-1 win over bitter rivals Team Southampton and victory by the same margin over title favourites Wessex BU.

The Deans have been simply unstoppable on court ever since losing to Essex Estonians in October.

The double on their home patch made it 15 consecutive wins in all competitions.

Horndean have now reclaimed the top spot for the third time this season, with 42 points – one ahead of second-placed Wessex BU, who have a game in hand.

The Deans will finish no lower than second spot – a place that will see them take part in the National League promotion play-offs on July 11.

The experience gained from their last two home fixtures will, however, serve as motivation for the Deans – who battle division one outfit Northumbria/Middlesbrough Academy for Shield glory at the National Volleyball Centre on Saturday.

‘You could not have asked for a better result,’ said player-coach Nasser Ssemuwemba.

‘Winning two major encounters, just days before our Shield final, is the best morale boost.

‘We know we shall be facing far different opponents but the epic win against a tough Wessex team is a massive motivation and makes us believe that anything is possible.

‘I just hope we can replicate the same form at Kettering on Saturday.’

Horndean raced into a two-set lead against Team Southampton at Highbury College last Saturday, courtesy of Haakon Lie’s hard-hitting spikes, Stephen Metherell’s back-court play and Marcus Russell’s solid blocks.

And after Southampton hit back in the third, the Deans sealed the match with a fourth-set win.

Twenty-four hours later, they put Wessex BU to the sword.

Leandros Tsikras, named man-of-the-match in both games, was again the architect of Horndean’s attacks that were delightfully finished off by high-flying spikers Damian Roberts and Maciej Kubis.

Benoit Royer joined the rampaging duo in stabilising the service reception unit, which allowed Tsikras to broaden the Deans’ attacking options.

Russell’s well-angled hits, together with huge blocks from Tsikras and Kubis, were enough to subject the visitors to their second defeat of the season at the hands of Horndean.

‘At the moment, we’ve got the bragging rights,’ said Russell.

‘And even if Wessex go ahead and win the title, they will be haunted by the fact they could not beat Horndean.

‘This is an absolutely memorable achievement for the team. Wessex BU are a well-drilled team comprising of players on volleyball scholarships.

‘That’s why we are chuffed to be the only team to have beaten them – not once, but twice, so far this season.

‘Bring on Northumbria/Middlesbrough Academy!’

Horndean’s last two league games are at Solent 2 on April 6 and at Bristol on April 12.