Horndean experience Shield final pain

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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 are aiming to quickly bounce back from their crushing defeat to Northumbria/Middlesbrough Academy in the men’s National Shield final.

The wounded Deans will make the short trip to Solent 2 for their penultimate National League division two south encounter.

They have plenty of scars to heal after their painful straight sets loss in Kettering.

This is the second consecutive year Horndean have been denied Shield glory, after losing to the mighty Flaming Six Aces in last year’s final.

But the Deans have looked a different team this term with the acquisition of new players like the Greek setter Leandros Tsikras raising hope of success.

However, at the national volleyball centre, it was Northumbria who raced out of the start blocks in top gear, with a string of well placed serves and hits that ensured a 25-19 opening set triumph.

The Deans then regained their composure in the early stages of the second set with both Maciej Kubis and Marcus Russell finding their way through Northumbria’s blocks.

But Horndean’s dreams were later shattered when playmaker Tsikras suffered a bad leg injury in a freak accident during a defensive scramble for the ball.

‘We were gutted,’ said Horndean’s player-coach Nasser Ssemuwemba.

‘Everything just collapsed upon us.

‘He is the engine of the team and once we realised how severe the injury was, every player’s shoulders just dropped.

‘We had no reputable setter to replace him. So, I had to bring on our opposite spiker Damian Roberts to set.’

Roberts, who is more explosive as a spiker, had to use his beach volleyball skills to carry out the setting duties for his side.

And although Horndean huffed and puffed, they could not stop Northumbria from notching up the second set 25-21.

Roberts rallied in the third set and Horndean pushed their higher-division rivals all the way.

Eventually, a couple of defensive blunders and hitting errors handed the victory to Northumbria 25-23.

Kubis is hoping Horndean can quickly recover and finish the league season well.

He said: ‘We now need to stay focused on the league.

‘We’re all heartbroken about what happened to Tsikras and the Shield final loss.

‘But all is not lost, as long as we can win our next two games, then the pressure is on our top table challengers (Wessex BU).’

Horndean hope Tsikras will make a rapid recovery to feature in the promotion play-offs if they finish second.