CWG: No medal but England pairs do the sport proud
12th April 2018
England's men volleyball pair Jake Sheaf and Chris Gregory finished fourth in the Commonwealth Games after losing the bronze medal match to New Zealand.
New Zealand came out all guns blazing at the Coolangatta beach front with Sam O'Dea building a wall at the net with his huge blocking. The Kiwis opened up a 7-1 lead and although Sheaf and Gregory found their feet in the match and began to put pressure on their opponents, they were never able to reel back in the points difference. The first set was taken by New Zealand 21-13.
The O'Dea brothers started the second set as they had the first, in blistering fashion. Again they raced into a 7-1 lead and the English pair looked like being blown away as they sat in their seats 9-2 down at the time out. Sheaf and Gregory showed tremendous character and competitive spirit to outscore their opponents in the rest of the match but it was New Zealand who took bronze as they won the second set 21-15.
Chris Gregory said: "On reflection, we have done well to get to this point, but of course gutted.
“We have given it everything to get to these Games, so we are going to go away and take a bit of time now to recover, reset and think about what we are going to do for the rest of this year. We will look back at it with so many fond memories, and there have been so many great things and hopefully this will be a springboard for junior players as well.
Jake Sheaf added: "We didn’t play solid enough really, we weren’t consistent enough and made too many mistakes. And at the end of the day, they were just better than us. On our day, I think we would win that match, but unfortunately today wasn’t our day.
“This is an incredible sport for people to watch, and hopefully we will see it at future games.”
Fourth place may not have been what Gregory and Sheaf had been aiming for but it is a hugely creditable result and there is no doubting the pair have boosted the profile of beach volleyball in this country. Their semi final showdown against Australia and their bronze medal match were both shown live on the BBC.
As the first men's pair to ever represent England in the sport at a Commonwealth Games, their legacy of this week extends beyond the tournament. They enjoyed entertaining victories over Mozambique, Cyprus, and Scotland. They also faced New Zealand in their pool matches which was a much tighter affair and showed they can compete with the best players as they took a set off them.
It's been a great effort from Team England and that also includes the women's pair of Jess Grimson and Victoria Palmer.
They just missed out on the semi finals after they narrowly lost out to Vanuatu in the quarter finals on Tuesday.
The pair saved seven set points in the opener to overturn Vanuatu's lead and take the first set 25-23. In the second set, Grimson and Palmer were leading 18-14 but let Vanuatu made a comeback of their own to steal the second set 21-19. The decider was a nail-biter with the English pair getting in front 10-8. The scores were then tied at 12-12 before Vanuatu found the edge to win the next three points and progress to the semi finals.
Grimson and Palmer were agonisingly close to competing in a medal match but can be immensely proud of their run in the competition. They enjoyed great victories over Fiji and Trinidad and Tobago. The pair have sacrificed so much to reach the Games and also make history as the first English women to represent their country in the sport at a Commonwealth Games.
Sheaf, Gregory, Palmer and Grimson have shown to any young English beach volleyball player how much you can achieve in the sport if you have the desire and talent, and the appetite to work incredibly hard - on and off the court.
In the build up to the Games, Victoria Palmer said that she wanted to show that England can play beach volleyball. Well, Team England's pairs have certainly achieved that.