The South African junior men’s volleyball team where up against it when they ended up in a group with the African continent’s top two teams, Tunisia and Egypt at the 14th African Junior Men’ Championship staged in Misurata, Libya recently.
The event, a precursor to the 2011 world championship, was won by Tunisia and the Egyptians finished runners up.
Going down to Tunisia and Egypt in the group stage effectively ruled the South Africans out of┬á a podium place although in their final group match the South Africans unleashed their wrath on minnows Cote d’ Ivoire, thrashing them in straight set (3-0).
There after overcoming Chad in a hard fought 3-2 encounter, the South Africans┬á squared up to the Libyans in the fifth/sixth place play-off.
Starting at a cracking pace the SA lads pinned the home side against the ropes by taking a commanding 7-3 lead. When Libya’s crafty playmaker, Abdelrahman Daghdanna struck form after a shaky start things began to change quickly for the home side whose fans cheered them on all the way. Power attacker, Abdulla Elmensouri had a field day, pulling the trigger with devastating effect whenever he was brought into the fray by playmaker Daghdanna.
When Libya’s tall and powerfully built middle attacker, Fadi Abasahmed unleashed a few missiles that gave the SA blockers no chance of containing him, the Libyans surged ahead with a 16-11 lead. Had it not been for an awesome display of power attacking from SA’s diminutive outside hitter, Miles Thompson, the Libyans would have closed proceedings with relative ease. The Capetonian took on the Libyan blockers and repeatedly outgunned them when playmaker Dean Layters turned to Thompson to put points onto the board. One wonders why the SA setter did not keep Thompson in the loop when he had the beating of the home side blockers.
It came as no surprise when the South Africans were made to pay for their blunder when the Libyans clinched the first set with a 25-18 score line. Racing to a 8-3 lead raised SA’s hopes of a second set victory which would level matters at 1-1. Steady performances from Thompson, skipper Quwin Naidoo and Dean Layters kept SA ahead on points. Sadly, when the SA lads began to falter with service reception the Libyans were quick to pounce on their opportunity and direct their float services deep into their opponents’ space to cause havoc in the SA camp.
SA went on to lose the set by a 25-23 margin and the Libyans raised their hands to the heavens in gratitude for their narrow win.
A spirited fight back by the South Africans forced the Libyans into a corner. Going into a 25-14 lead the South Africans silenced the home fans. However, unable to continue with their winning ways, the SA lads were pipped to the post by their opponents when they ended the set with a 25-22 win.