Great Britain beat Algeria 3-2 (22-25, 25-19, 23-25, 25-19, 15-8) as the second round of women’s volleyball preliminary matches took place at Earls Court on Monday night.
This is a fantastic achievement for a British side who have funded their own way to the games, in a sport that worldwide has the highest participation, but in the UK is played very little.
In front of a cheerful home crowd, in a match that went on past midnight Great Britain kept pace with Algeria. After a whitewash result against Russia in their opening match, GB was determined to make the last six years of sacrifice worthwhile.
Ciara Michel, Grace Carter and especially captain Lynne Beattie landed good spikes, while for Algeria, Zohra Bensalem dominated the scoring. With the score level at 20-20 in the first set, Great Britain made too many mistakes, and Algeria won the set 25-22.
In the second set play continued to be tight, but to the delight of the home crowd GB edged ahead and won the set 25-19, the first in their Olympic history. Unable to keep the momentum, the third set went to Algeria with neither time capitalising with winners and it was errors that led to the bulk of the points.
Knowing that it was all or nothing in terms of a victory, Britain raced out of the traps in the fourth, with Janine Sandell on fire down the middle, spiking three winners to take them out to 9-5. That became 15-7 as Algeria lost their way, seemingly tiring after some long rallies and opening up at the net and allowing Lucy Wicks to find the ground with nothing more than a poke. There would be no mistake in seeing the set out either, with Bragg’s spike tipped out to set up a decider.
In the fifth set Great Britain took a 6-1 lead, with Beattie again providing a steadying influence. Algeria made too many errors and the home side was lifted by the support of the crowd. Rachel Bragg hit a great spike to see Great Britain set up match point and a Carter block sealed the victory.
It was a historical night for volleyball in the UK, and next the team must turn their attention to the unbeaten Italian side they will face on Wednesday. Speaking after the match GB coach Audrey Cooper said, ”We’ve got to go all-out for a win towards the end of the week.”
The Women’s Sports Magazine
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