St. Mary’s edge out Holy Family in VB Cadette Final
All-Ireland Girls Volleyball ‘A’ Final
St. Mary’s College, Naas 2
Holy Family, Newbridge 0
MVP award winner Aisling Clancy was the star performer in UCD on Thursday afternoon, as St Mary’s College Naas got the better of near rivals Holy Family Secondary School Newbridge in a tension-filled All-Ireland Cadette Girls ‘A’ decider.
On paper, there appeared to very little to separate the two teams, and this was very much how the game transpired during the early exchanges, as the sides were tied 5-5 after some excellent play from both sets of players.
Newbridge garnered points during this period thanks to the efforts of Wiktoria Wnek and Sarah Low, but they also forced Rica Garcia and Claire Meagher into a couple errors thanks to the pressure that their serves were applying to Naas.
The opening three points for Naas also came off mistakes by their opponents, however, with a fifth point also arriving after Holy Family’s Amie McLoughlin volleyed into the net.
It looked like it was going to be nip and tuck throughout the opening set, but Naas sensed that there was a chance for them to push on, and four consecutive points (with Clancy and Maeve O’Brien starting to come into their own) edged them into a 9-5 lead.
It was at this point that Newbridge opted for the first time-out of the afternoon, but it was their counterparts that were starting to dictate the play, as a superb serve by Clancy and a wayward volley by Phaengehan further increased their cushion.
Their scoring sequence did eventually come to an end when Clancy knocked a volley out of bounds, but this only offered temporary relief to Newbridge, as points through Clancy (2), O’Brien and Cliodhna Duffy moved Mary’s into an impressive 17-8 lead. Some relentless pressure yielded Newbridge a couple of points just after this, but similar aggression from Naas left them needing just two points to secure the crucial first set.
To Holy Family’s credit, they started to rally during this time, and the strong leadership shown by Wnek meant that they hit back with four points on the trot, but with Laura Quinlivan and Low narrowly avoiding to return serves, St Mary’s were deserving winners of the first set on a scoreline of 25-14.
Holy Family coach, Peter Bergin, would have been delighted therefore to see his charges moving into a 5-0 lead (in this best of three sets clash) so early on in the second set, as their increased tempo caused errors from Meagher, Cora Moloney and Duffy, although Wnek also secured a score from an eye-catching volley.
Naas finally settled back into the proceedings with a brace of points, and even though Newbridge added to their tally when Duffy struck out following strong work by Phaengehan, Mary’s looked like they were beginning to regain their earlier form with three scores in a row.
This left the game delicately poised once again, but the increasingly influential Phaengehan helped Newbridge to edge four clear, and despite Rachel Collins reduced the margin to the bare minimum with her strong serves to the Newbridge side, they were facing into a six-point deficit after some outstanding scoring exploits for Holy Family from Langrell, Low and the impressive Wnek. This raised hopes that Newbridge could bring this game right down to the wire, but Naas displayed true character to cut into their lead, as their strong serves and return volleys meant Holy Family’s margin had once again been narrowed to one.
However, Naas were finding it hard to get back in front, and a rejuvenated Newbridge were left needing just four points for the set after points from Low and McLoughlin followed up an off-target Mary’s serve from Collins.
Naas were not going to be dismissed lightly, however, and despite Wnek registering a vital point for Newbridge, scores for their rivals from Meagher, Duffy and Clancy, along with a couple of miscued efforts by Wnek and Phaengehan, left the sides level at 22 apiece.
This set up a nerve-wracking end to the second set, and though Newbridge looked like they might have the edge when Phaengehan gave them a slender cushion once more, this score was quickly cancelled out when Langrell’s serve for Newbridge had too much purchase on it.
This gave Naas plenty of confidence, and when Langrell couldn’t deal with their strong serve, they found themselves needing just one point to seal the title. This was the first time they held an advantage during the second set, and they weren’t prepared to let it slip away, and despite the best efforts of Langrell and McLoughlin to return the ball to Naas’ side, the former hit the net with her attempted return volley, as St Mary’s College secured back-to-back Cadette triumphs.
ST MARY’S COLLEGE NAAS: Aisling Clancy, Maeve O’Brien, Leah Whyte, Eidin Duffy, Elaine McCullagh, Katie Dore, Rica Garcia, Fiona Jacob, Niamh Bergin, Claire Meagher, Rachel Collins, Cora Moloney, Cliodhna Duffy.
HOLY FAMILY NEWBRIDGE: Wiktoria Wnek, Amie McLoughlin, Maja Lalowicz, Pim Phaengehan, Laura Quinlivan, Julia Hilliard, Amie Langrell, Sarah Low.
REFEREE: Colette King, Liam Conroy.