Play-off heartbreak for Horndean ‘gladiators’

Haakon Lie. Picture: Allan Hutchings (133265-680)
Haakon Lie. Picture: Allan Hutchings (133265-680)
Share this article
Josh Green in action for England under-17s at the NEVZA Championshi. Picture: Hamistolen Photography

Green buoyant after his first international abroad

Have your say

Horndean must wait for yet another season to renew their bid for promotion to National League division one.

The Deans again came up short at the National Volleyball Centre, losing to eventual winners Birmingham, and Nottingham Rockets in the play-offs.

The Kettering venue has not been a happy hunting ground for the Deans, who have now failed to win on three separate visits.

But they came close to breaking their duck on Sunday, pushing Nottingham Rockets to five sets in a pulsating opening match that had spiking and blocking at its best.

‘Kettering has been an intimidating venue to us, having lost there twice in the last two National Shield finals,’ said player-coach Nasser Ssemuwemba.

‘However, I felt that this time round we played some very good volleyball out there and were very unlucky to lose to Nottingham.

‘We were only two points shy of what would have been our maiden Kettering victory.’

The Deans looked disjointed in the opening stages against a well-drilled Nottingham side.

And their slapdash performance saw them lose the first two sets 25-17 and 25-19.

But they hit back, catching their opponents cold with two quick-fire sets to push the match to a decider.

Outside hitters Haakon Lie and Maciej Kubis led the onslaught with powerful attacks that ripped through Nottingham’s defence to draw level with 25-17 and 25-16 set triumphs.

The fifth set was a nerve-racking affair as both teams cautiously hunted for points.

Lie continued to run riot in attack and, with Damian Roberts joining the fray, the Deans looked destined for victory.

But Nottingham tightened their blocks to seal success 15-13.

‘It was heart-breaking,’ said stand-in captain and setter Benoit Royer.

‘The whole team played their best and we came so close.

‘Had we won against Nottingham, then we would have gone into the Birmingham encounter in buoyant mood.’

After a gruelling two-hour battle against Nottingham, the battered and bruised Deans were straight back on court to take on a fresh Birmingham side who were playing to stay in division one.

Despite their tiredness, Horndean put up stiff resistance in the opening two sets before Birmingham ran out winners of both, 25-21.

With Lie at his destructive best and Ssemuwemba gaining some success in the middle, the Deans surprised their opponents with a third set 27-25 victory.

But Birmingham quickly regained their composure to seal the match with a 25-12 fourth-set win.

They later went on to thrash Nottingham in straight sets to retain their division one status.

‘Although we were not at full strength, the team really put in a good shift,’ said Ssemuwemba.

‘We competed like gladiators and caused our opponents a lot of problems.

‘We now need to take a good break and recharge our batteries for next season.

‘Hopefully we can secure automatic qualification and don’t have to go through these laborious play-offs again.

‘I want to thank all the players for their commitment this season and representing the club in such a positive way.

‘Let’s hope we can keep our fighting spirit alive to go one better next season.’