England Men claim victory on international return
23rd May 2016
England’s senior men had a promising return to the international circuit, finishing third in their group in the first round of the CEV 2017 European Championship in Norway, beating Hungary in five-sets on the final day.
Unranked going into the group stage, this was the first formal outing for the England side in almost a decade. With some London 2012 Olympians and senior debutants in the mix, the team showed exceptional drive against some very experienced, full-time players.
The three-match round started with England facing host nation, Norway at the Sotra Arena in Straume.
The match opened with a close first set which was won by Norway 25-19 but a determined England side were not going to let go of the second. They kept point-for-point with the hosts and it was 20-all before they ultimately took the lead and went on to win the set 25-22.
England stayed in the mix in the third, but it was Norway, ranked 36th in the CEV, who showed their experience in the latter part of the game, winning the third set 25-19 and the fourth set 25-11 to ultimately take the match 3-1 (25-19, 22-25, 25-19, 25-11).
Day two saw England face group favourites, Israel. Ranked highest in the group, it was Israel who took the first set 25-20 but a determined England came right back at them in the second, holding off a strong attack to take an early lead. Leading at the first and second technical time outs, England looked in control before an Israel fightback saw them 21-20 down. England rallied to overturn the lead and took the set win 25-23 to keep themselves in the match.
A change in the line-up saw Israel finally pick up some momentum and they took the final two sets 25-15 and 25-14, to win 3-1 (25-20, 25-23, 25-15, 25-14).
On day three it was all to play for as both England and Hungary were without a win and determined to come out on top. A change in the starting six and a belief from the set wins the previous two days, saw England come out fighting.
Taking an early lead in the first set, they were 16-8 at the second technical and maintained the advantage to take the first set 25-17.
A stunned Hungary took the early lead in the second set, determined to stay in the game, but by the second technical it was England who once again were leading. A missed opportunity though saw the second set slip from the English grasp and it went to Hungary 28-26, to level the match.
It was Hungary who took their winning momentum into the third and they were 8-4 up at the first technical time out but England once again dug deep to pull back and regain the lead by the second, 16-14. A close back end of the set saw both teams rally to gain the advantage and this time it was England who came out on top to win 28-26.
At 2-1 to England, Hungary had everything to play for to stay in the game and attacked the set aggressively from the off. A shake up of their line up paid off as they led from start to finish to win the set 25-18 to level the match.
In the deciding set, England refocussed and stayed disciplined to halt the Hungarian charge. At 10-6 they had the advantage and converted the lead to take the final set 15-11, and the match 3-2 (25-17, 26-28, 28-26, 18-25, 15-11).
Head coach Simon Loftus was delighted with the results and said the overall scores were a credit to the team.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve played on the major international circuit and we really wanted to come out here and compete with the other teams,” he said.
“Pulling out the big win against an established team such as Hungary was a fantastic result for the whole team. They have a full time programme with professional players so to defeat them was an achievement.
“I’m very happy with how the newer members of the team conducted themselves and they were very well supported by the more experienced players.
“We really challenged the other teams, we didn’t give any of them an easy run. The main difference for us was experience of matches at this level and maintaining the intensity for the whole duration.
“I’m really proud of the whole team and this has given us a really solid platform from which to build on for the future. We’ve got some way to go but this is a good benchmark.”
Volleyball England president, Geoff Allen, extended his congratulations to the whole team.
“Congratulations to England men and their staff on their win over Hungary,” he said. “After so long away from the international scene and with so many debutants, to win a match on their comeback is a major bonus.
“Thanks too to all those who helped get our senior England teams playing again.”
The England Men’s Volleyball Team comprises:
NAME HOMETOWN CLUB
Kieran O’Malley Halifax London Docklands
Kieran Sowden Gateshead IBB Polonia London
Sonny Chaney Walton On The Naze Topvolley Callant, Antwerp
Ieuan Lamb Nottingham Sheffield
Phil Smith Haywards Heath IBB Polonia London
Oliver Kimber Bournemouth IBB Polonia London
Daniel Hunter Bournemouth Wessex
Adam Bradbury (Captain) Stoke-on-Trent Vingakers, Sweden
Sam Shenton Newcastle-under-Lyme Team Northumbria
Ryan Poole Enfield, London Malory Eagles
Nathan French Chelmsford Team Northumbria
Liam Jenkinson Newcastle upon Tyne Team Northumbria
Daruis Setsoafia Thornton Heath, Surrey Team Northumbria
Matt Howe Peterborough Sheffield