The GB Women began their 10-day series against the Finnish National Team in Turku, approximately 40 minutes from Helsinki. The trip has been planned to replicate the Olympic Games schedule of 5 matches, one match every other day with a training/recovery day in between.
The HKA arena was lively with a crowd of just under 5000 home supporters. The starting line up was Wicks, Beattie, Reid, Laybourne, Bragg, Michel and Bertelli (libero). Both teams started tentatively, neither team finding their rhythm – GB not serving tough enough or settling quick enough in serve receive - which meant points being traded throughout the set. Bragg was scoring well on the outside but the hosts controlled and won the first set 25-21.
After some strong words from Coach Cooper, the GB players responded well, finding their rhythm. The offence was beginning to function, with the setters using the middle attackers who were finding holes in the opposition block, particularly Reid on the slide ball. The result was a comfortable second set win for GB 19-25.
With some changes to the line up for the third set; Sandell, Newton & Carter entering the court; GB took some time to settle, giving the hosts a chance which they seized upon and led 8-4 and 16-9 at the technical timeouts. Unforced errors and lack of aggression were the key aspects for this set loss of 18-25.
GB knew that they were in a game and the players took the court extremely determined to turn the game around and gain a victory in the first of the 5 match series. Led by Wicks, Bragg and Taylor, GB upped their serve pressure and consistency in serve receive, forcing the pressure on Finland who then started to make the mistakes. The middles were functioning well scoring consecutively and great blocking by GB’s number 19, Ciara Michel then dominated the net and GB won the fourth set 20-25.
With the bit between their teeth and the determination to take a win, GB were very focused at the start of the fifth set and Bragg started the set with a service run to lead 0-4. The result was a 3-8 lead at the end change. There was no way back for Finland. GB were just too strong – good serving backed up by excellent blocking and transition into effective offence play demonstrated the GB style and it was comfortable 5th set win 8-15 GB to win the match 2-3.
This was a gutsy performance from the GB Women, grinding out a result without ever getting into full rhythm, something they haven’t necessarily done in the past. Showed signs of some good play and happy with the win, but know there is still a lot more to come from the team, which is promising.
Serve Receive: Team: 2.08 (Beattie 2.21 from 28, Bertelli 2.13 from 23,)
Kills/Efficiency: Team: 50 / 19.23% (Michel 9 / 81.8%, Beattie 15 / 25.7%)
Blocks: Team: 18
MVP: Ciara Michel
2. Lucy Wicks, 4. Rachel Laybourne, 5. Rachel Newton, 6. Jen Taylor 7. Maria Bertelli (Libero), 8. Rachel Bragg, 9. Jo Morgan, 10. Lynne Beattie (Captain), 12. Lizzie Reid, 17. Janine Sandell, 18. Grace Carter, 19. Ciara Michel