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Tauranga women get up in thriller, Nelson men repeat title win

 
Tauranga setter Nicole Yardley was instrumental in helping her team to victory at the National Club Volleyball Championships in Auckland.

Auckland, New Zealand, September 1, 2013 - While Nelson men's volleyball team dominated the Harbour Raiders to repeat their 2012 title, Tauranga women survived a mighty fightback by 2011-2 champions Manukau South to narrowly prevail in a five-set thriller at the National Club Volleyball Championships in Auckland on Saturday.

Tauranga (who beat NZIS in straight sets in the semi-finals), defeated Manukau South who entered the finals with a 3-1 win over Hamilton A, in five sets 3-2 (25-21, 25-18, 20-25, 18-25, 16-14) to win the gold medal.

Tauranga looked composed and organised as they took the first two sets comfortably in the replay of the 2012 and 2011 women's finals, with setter Nicole Yardley distributing the ball well to her attacking strike forces Simone Head and captain Lisa Claassen.

However, the experienced Manukau South pairing of setter Pogai Falemai and hitter Margaret Lafaele led third and fourth set counterattacks by the Auckland side, with the whole team showing greater urgency and determination to tie the match up and force a fifth-set tiebreaker.

When Manukau South went to a narrow lead early in the tie-breaker, the champions were in the box set for a third straight title, but the halfway change of ends saw Tauranga overhaul their opponents, on the back of a more varied attack including some effective hitting from Stephanie Pierce, with the Bay of Plenty team surging to match point at 14-12. 

At this point, some great serving and hitting by Lafaele bought the Aucklanders back into the game, tying the scores at 14-14, before both teams played nervously in scrambled rallies that Tauranga came out on top of to win 16-14.

In the men’s competition, Nelson struggled in their earlier semi-final to shake off the 2012 runners-up Sparta in a five-setter, but were much more clinical in their final against Harbour Raiders to take out the match three sets to nil. 

Raiders played a similar orthodox style to Nelson, but without the height and all-round striking power of the southerners. The Aucklanders had experience, but lacked strength in all positions to put Nelson under the same sort of continuous pressure they themselves faced.

Nelson coach Colin Redpath had clearly prepared his charges and game plan well to counter anything the Auckland would throw at them, with the particularly effective combination of setter and captain Patrick Shone and lefty-handed hitter Ben 'Sticky' Glue scoring a large number of points from the 'D' position. Imports 'Big' Ben Loft and Ben O'Dea were effective on many occasions, as was the experienced Teryn Proracki.



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