Friday, October 25, 2013
Exeter Storm’s junior team has progressed to the last 16 of the Volleyball England Under-18 National Championships.
Coached by Ben Fairweather and Danny Lewis, both former students of The King’s School, Exeter Storm arrived as underdogs.
The under-18 squad was only formed last month, utilising talented players from Exeter and the surrounding area, with this being the team’s first taste of competitive volleyball.
Team Southampton withdrew from the competition at short notice, leaving Academy of Beach Sports (ABS), Exeter Storm and Wessex Leaf B to compete for two places in the next round. The opening match was a close contest between Academy of Beach Sports and Wessex Leaf B. The score line, 2-0 to Wessex, didn’t reflect the performance of ABS. The North Devon outfit looked the better team for the majority of the match, but were unable to break down the Wessex defence with any consistency.
Exeter Storm met Academy of Beach Sports in the next match. Having never played together before, in a competitive environment, the unproven Exeter side immediately crushed ABS’ hopes of an easy ride. Inexorable hitting from Elliot Lipscombe devastated a usually solid defence. A number of serving errors from Storm kept their opposition within sight, but they took the set 25-23. Storm began the second set in lacklustre fashion, struggling to put a decent pass in to the setter. The lapse continued into the third set, with Academy of Beach Sports taking an early lead. Despite regrouping and finishing the match as the stronger team, the lead was unassailable and Storm slumped to a 2-1 defeat.
The third and final match of the day, between Exeter Storm and Wessex Leaf B, would decide who progressed to the next round; an Exeter Storm loss would give ABS second place, but a win would see Storm qualify by most sets won. Although the vastly more experience Wessex team was well organised, they had no answer to the superior offensive power of Storm. Good distribution from Kyle Mitchell, the setter and captain, enabled the hitters to exploit every weakness in the Bournemouth team’s defence. After taking the first set 25-19, Exeter Storm once again started the second set poorly. The tricky ‘float’ serve of Tom Allen caused the Storm defence all kinds of problems, to put Wessex 7-0 up. With morale plummeting, the Exeter boys were unrecognisable from their first set performance, and the Wessex lead continued to grow. Despite the set being all but over, a motivational timeout speech from Danny Lewis reinvigorated the team. Exeter Storm lost the set, but had their confidence back. Powering to a 15-6 win in the deciding set, with precise passing and clinical attacks, Exeter Storm sealed a well-deserved 2-1 victory. This result earned them a place amongst the last 16 teams in the country, which sees the top-seeded teams enter the draw.
Ben Fairweather said: “We outclassed the opposition for large spells in each match, starting and finishing strongly. Once a rally was underway, we always looked favourites to win the point. The next round will be even tougher, but with the right preparation, I have every confidence in our chances.”
Exeter Storm Volleyball Club is always looking to add to its squads. Full details are available on the club website at www.exeterstormvc.co.uk