Sunderland City Predators continued their golden run and are a step closer to promotion after they clinched a 3-1 victory in a thrilling encounter against York VC.
The guests fought well but a motivated and well-established Sunderland team didn’t give in. The Sunderland players knew that the few remaining games are not only about the league points any more as they look to seal promotion to Division 2.
Some efficient sharp spikes from all directions contributed to get them 2-0 ahead, but the hosts struggled to get a hold of the game in the third set to give it away.
The last set proved a battle in itself. Sunderland composed themselves effectively, though, to eventually finish with a scoreline of 25:21, 25:11, 25:27, 25:20.
The first set was very competitive as both teams went point by point. Mateusz Krzyzanowsili committed a mistake and smashed the ball out for 17-16. The team then decided to stick to a more safe approach – not serving dangerous balls – which proved successful.
Having regained a steady lead at 21-17, it seemed like their rivals wouldn’t settle with that result. York quickly got back to it to prove they were an unrelenting competitor.
The set showed a lot of efforts and fighting but the Predators were more stable to win through a powerful Jonathan Berriman’s spike.
In the second set, the Predators established a more attacking rhythm throughGraeme Brough’s service and powerful attacks, while Scott Hailes was solid to penetrate block. This helped the hosts easily widen their point deficit to 8-5.
Joe Wilson’s excellently executed spike right after the break put pressure on York and they were forced to call a time out at 9-5.
Sunderland played their best as Nicolas Ricci blocked well and used the proper reception to build up the attacks. The Predators used the disturbed state of York’s backline defence to easily go to 18-7.
A Krzyzanowsili’s diagonal shot brought another point, but at that point York’s Chris Stent executed probably the most intelligent point in the set.
At 23-8, though, those flashes of skilfulness weren’t enough to salvage the set and only postponed the inevitable.
Sunderland started the second set with the same intent and succeeded to lead 5-2, but it was only for a matter of minutes as York equalized 6-6.
It was now evident that York would maintain the pressure and they then took the lead for the first time in the set after Sundeland hit the net.
Ricci and Berriman made a good block pair but that didn’t help Sunderland much as the match continued to go point by point until they drew 19-19.
In that situation coach Keith Sowden made a change putting Dale Hildren on the place of Graeme Brough.
York’s Pascal Charls gave away three crucial points, but with the Predators allowing too many mistakes, it was York who emerged victorious in the set.
York had an early activity to lead 4-8 at the first break in the next set, but Sunderland managed to regain their dominance through the proper reception and concentrated attack, as well as a few changes in the main squad.
Wilson replaced Alex Brown and that approach worked as Wilson brilliantly assisted Krzyzanowsili for 11-13.
At 15-16 Ricci finished a much needed equalizer to keep the spirits up and lead the team to 22-19. Another Wilson’s assist made it 24:19 to seal the win.
Coach Sowden said after the match: “I thought it would be a game that would be very straightforward but it turned out it wasn’t.
“They played really well and we had to make changes at the end to win the game. Fortunately, we were ready for that so I’m happy.
“I think in the second set we gained a little bit of a lead and they couldn’t come back while in the third set I didn’t expect them to play as well as they did so we did a few substitutions, took other players off and the lads that actually came in played really well. So it’s an advantage to have players who you could choose from,” he added.
The Predators will conclude their debut season on 7 April in Loughborough with their two remaining games.
And Sowden has targeted two more victories as his side look to gain promotion.
He said: “Obviously we’re going for the win in the next few games and hopefully we’re going to get a promotion. That’s what we’re striving for.”