NEVZA U17 Championships
1st November 2015
This is the third year in a row that England have hosted the NEVZA U17 Championships. Next year will see the U17 competition move to Denmark with the U19s moving in the opposite direction- we look forward to welcoming the new teams. A big thank you to everyone who has contributed over the last few years, from staff to volunteers, players and organisers. For the final time, here is a round up the past 4 days of action at the National Volleyball Centre, Kettering.
England faced Sweden who were runners up last year. Both sides started strongly as the score went almost point for point through to 11-10. Sweden put together a run of points and ran away with the set 25-14. England started the stronger in the second set and managed to hold off a late Swedish comeback as they levelled the match 25-21. Set three saw roles reversed as Sweden took the initiative. A late flurry of points closed the gap but it wasn't enough as Sweden gained the momentum going into the fourth set. A quick fire start from the England saw them race to a 7-2 lead but a string of powerful, accurate serves managed to undo the home sides good work as Sweden led 8-7 at the technical time out. The scores remained within two through to the closing stages of the set as neither team was able to string a run of points together until Sweden managed to force a couple of errors and secure the match 25-22. A very good early showing from the England girls who have plenty of positives to take into tomorrow's match against Denmark.
2013 Champions Norway took on 2014 bronze medallists Denmark in a match that looked like it had the potential to go the distance after a first set battle ended with Denmark on top 25-21. That seemed to give the Danish girls the edge as they comfortably won the second and third sets to 13, securing an opening 3-0 win.
Denmark boys enjoyed a relatively straightforward victory over Iceland 25-12, 25-15, 25-20. Their crunch game of the group will likely come against Sweden who cruised to a 3 set win over Faroe Islands 25-18, 25-21, 25-16.
Iceland defied their seeding to pick up a thrilling five set victory against last year's winners Finland. After taking the first set 25-17, they narrowly missed out on the second 24-26 but secured the third 25-23. Finland found a spark in the fourth set, easing to a 25-16 win setting up a nerve shredding fifth set. Iceland looked to have it in the bag at 12-9 up but Finland clawed their way back to level the set 14-14. It was too little too late though as Iceland took the next 2 points and with it, the match.
England's conquerors from Thursday evening, Sweden, maintained their 100% win record after beating Norway in 4 sets. England, despite starting earlier, were still going when the Sweden game finished as the girls battled towards their first win of the competition. After Denmark won the fourth set, it looked as though their momentum might be enough to put a big dent in England's hopes of reaching the quarter finals. A noticeable increase in the noise levels seemed to lift the team as they found a second (or third!) wind, sending the team and supporters wild as they secured a 16-14 fifth set victory.
The Faroe Islands found it tough going in their first match of the day against a strong looking Iceland team. It was the latter who secured their place at the top of Pool A with a straight sets victory. Sweden topped Pool B with a 3-0 win over Denmark, joining Iceland in the semi finals. England went on court for their final pool game knowing that they needed a win to have a chance of finishing second in the pool. A first set victory was nearly followed by a second but they let a slight lead slip to lose out 25-22. The third set was possibly England's best set of the tournament so far as they blitzed their way to a 25-12 win. The change of ends didn't really help as it halted their momentum somewhat, allowing the Norwegian girls to get back into the game. Opportunities came and went but it was Norway who made the decisive blow, sending the match to a 5th. England's energy levels never looked like wavering, despite going into their 10th set of the day (more than any other team had played). A swift turnover of points gave them a 5 point cushion which was enough to see them home. The last game of the day was between Finland and Faroe Islands. It was a convincing victory for the Finnish girls, leaving Faroe Islands to face the prospect of a match against England tomorrow.
Defending champions Finland started their campaign against Norway. A rapid first set ended 25-7 to Finland, putting a marker down for the rest of the teams looking to take the crown off them this year. A second and third set win to 13 and 15 respectively showed they were going to take some beating. Denmark were similarly ruthless against the Faroe Islands winning 19, 12 and 18. They were followed by Sweden who went slightly better, beating Iceland to 11, 12 and 14.
Next up on court were England. The boys made a solid, controlled start taking a five point lead at 11-6. Norway began to find their passing and came back to snatch the set 25-20. England fought back in the second to level the match (25-22). Sets three and four followed a similar pattern, with England looking the more likely to take the victory but on both occasions they couldn't quite get over the finishing line, losing 24-26, 24-26.
Game of the day went to Denmark and Sweden- another five setter but one with a difference as Denmark came from 2-0 down to win 3-2. The match looked to be heading towards a 3-0 victory for Sweden but Denmark had other ideas. Something seemed to click in set three as Denmark started to come out on top of the 50/50s which was enough to tip the set in their favour. By set four they had begun to dominate in all areas, wrapping the set up in relatively quick time, 25-16. The fifth set was more competitive than the fourth, but it wasn't enough for Sweden as Denmark completed the come back 15-12 and took with it the top spot in the pool.
Iceland vs Faroe Islands was another of the five matches that went to a deciding set. Unlike Sweden vs Denmark, this one swung back and forth on several occasions. It was Iceland who took the deciding set 15-10.
England boys were back on court for the final match of the day against top seeds Finland. The top seeds proved their worth and ran out straight sets victors.
The first of the girl's quarter finals saw England play Faroe Islands. After ten intense sets yesterday, the home team could be forgiven for taking a while to get into their stride. After losing the first set, normal service seemed to be resumed as they ran out comfortable winners 21-25, 25-12, 25-13, 25-17. This gave them a semi final against Iceland who had looked particularly strong throughout their matches yesterday. Unfortunately this was one bridge too far for the home team who will no doubt be putting everything they have into the bronze medal match tomorrow after losing in straight sets. Iceland meanwhile can look forward to a final, and rematch, against Finland who beat Sweden in the other semi final. The Final will be a rematch of the first game in the tournament for both teams. On that occasion, the win went to Iceland so it will be interesting to see if Finland can find an extra gear and retain their title of NEVZA U17 Champions.
England boys kicked off day three of the Championships. After good performances yesterday (despite of losing both games), there was hope that they could upset the seeding and beat Sweden to earn a place in the semi finals. A solid start was enough to let Sweden know they meant business as they kept pegging their opponents back any time it looked like a lead was beginning to build. It wasn't until the end of the set that Sweden managed to make their lead count as they edged a couple of points further ahead to 25-21. Set two was a different story as it was England with the upper hand for the most part. Unfortunately that didn't include the crucial last few points as they lost out 24-26. The third set was, unfortunately, almost identical to the second as England once again missed the opportunity to take the match to a fourth set, losing 24-26. This put them into the 5th-7th place playoff. Their first match in that pool was against Faroe Islands. They started slowly and quickly found themselves 2-0 without managing to get a foothold in either set. The third was a similar tale but they managed to just about sneak it 27-25. That seemed to be a big confidence boost as they took the fourth and fifth set with relative ease to 13 and 7. Their final match of the pool will be against Iceland tomorrow- a win will see them take 5th place.
In the other quarter final, Norway came out on top with a 3-0 victory over Iceland, booking a semi final slot against Denmark. The other semi final was between Sweden and Finland. The top seeds, Finland, rarely looked troubled as they remained on course to defend their title. They'll play Denmark who overcame Norway 3-0 (25-12, 25-20, 25-11). The last game of the evening, between Norway and Faroe Islands ended with a win to the latter 3-1 (25-27, 21-25, 25-19, 17-25)
Denmark and Faroe Islands played the last of the 5th-7th pool games early on Sunday morning. It was a relatively comfortable win for Denmark but the Faroe Islands supporters continued to make plenty of noise throughout. England girls were second on court against Sweden, looking to claim a bronze medal. Sweden started the quicker and seemed sharper in most areas on the court. A 2-0 lead looked like it was all but game over for the home side, however they started to make their plays count and after a few sideouts, gained some momentum towards the back end of the set. Roared on by the friends and family that had made their way down to come and watch, they took the match into a fourth. It was unbelievably tense throughout, no more so than the end of the set when England saved numerous match points. Their own match points came and went; they couldn't quite convert any of them which allowed Sweden to save themselves a fifth set and take the bronze medal 3-1.
The final featured two teams who met in their opening game of the competition. On this occasion, the volleyball was just as good but the outcome was different. Finland put their defeat behind them and were commanding throughout all three sets, thoroughly deserving their 2015 NEVZA U17 Champions title.
England boys needed a win to clinch 5th place. After seemingly cruising to a first set victory, Iceland turned the game on its head and won the next 2 sets and had chances to take the fourth as England struggled to find any consistency. They did, however, manage to do just enough to take the match to a fifth set in which they seemed to thrive, just like their previous match as they ran out winners 15-8. The 3rd/4th place playoff was a straight forward affair as Sweden never really looked troubled by Norway. The Final saw top seeds Finland square up to Denmark. After a pulsating opening set which Denmark won 25-21, Finland hit straight back in style winning the second 25-11. Denmark managed to put a stop to the tide of Finland attacks, regaining their composure to take the third. Set four followed a similar pattern as Finland were unable to hit the heights from set two. Denmark took full advantage and went wild as the final ball dropped in to hand them the title of 2015 NEVZA U17 Champions.
Thank you to all the volunteers and teams who have helped to make this years event a success.
A full set of results, stats can be found here