SA YOUTH GIRLS VOLLEYBALL TEAM IN ACTION IN BOTSWANA
By Donovan Nair
Inspired by the spell binding opening ceremony of the multi-code 2nd African Youth Games in Botswana, Team South Africa’s Girls Volleyball team posted a straight sets victory (3-0)(25-21; 25-12; 25-17) against Mauritius the Indian Ocean Islands’ top contenders.
Playing at this level of competition for the first time was a daunting task for the minnows from South Africa. However words of encouragement from Head Coach, Thierry Mabeka helped to ease the “jitters” in the camp and get his young charges to focus on the job at hand.
Middle blockers, Tamlyn Thomas and Laeeqah Sujee were quick to “get off the starting blocks” and take the fight to their opponents. Forced onto the back foot Team Mauritius committed several unforced errors that opened up a healthy lead for the South Africans. The SA Girls went on to pick up 5 to 6 points on the trot from setter Basetane Malubane’s float jump service that befuddled the islanders’ reception players . Never in any danger of losing the match Mabeka’s lasses went on with confidence to seal their opening encounter with a morale boosting 3-0 win.
While the South Africans fought to the bitter end in their 2nd and 3rd matches against Nigeria and Rwanda respectively the lack of height among the SA girls saw them concede defeat in straight sets (3-0).
For the SA girls their encounter against Egypt, the tournament’s eventual winners was a baptism of fire as they had no answer to the rampant attack force of the tall and quick hitting Egyptians. The South Africans were bundled out by their more experienced opponents (25-13; 25-8; 25-10).
A first class performance by skipper Lizalle Peterson kept SA in the hunt for their 2nd victory when they squared up against the tall Kenyans. With luck on their side the Kenyans squeezed past Team SA with a 25-22 and 28-26 score line to take a 2-0 lead in a best of 5 sets match. Joining Lizalle Peterson in attack, Tamlyn Thomas and Laeeqah Sujee combined well to take a hard fought 25-22 3rd set win that got the alarm bells ringing in the Kenyans camp.
It was the experience of the Kenyans that helped them put the brakes on the South African attack force and win the encounter with a 25-17 score.
Team South Africa’s final match against hosts, Botswana was an experience that they will want to erase from their memory as the girls ‘froze’ when they encountered a packed partisan crowd at the Molepolole Institute of Health Sciences Sports Hall.
To add to their misery live television at the hall created further problems as they felt nervous. According to Coach Mabeka, the hosts could have been easily defeated had it not been for the sudden onset of ‘stage fright’ in the SA camp. Mabeka went on to say that despite attempts to get his team to shake off their ‘jitters’ the ‘girls simply did not play’. The hosts wrapped up proceedings against Team South Africa with a
25-19; 25-21; 25-16 score line.
It was not all gloom and doom for the SA team as the experienced gained at this international competition will boost the girls confidence going forward as a national team players.