JERSEY were unable to end their 20-year wait for a place in the men’s indoor semi-finals on Wednesday, with a much-needed victory against hosts Gotland proving just beyond them.
Having beaten Cayman and Bermuda earlier in their 2017 Island Games campaign, the Reds – playing in black – knew nothing less than a win would do in the final group match at Ravhagen.
They held valid belief that they could achieve just that, but finished behind in two sets which could have gone either way before petering out towards the game’s conclusion.
‘We knew it would come down to this game if we were to have a shout of being in the semis, but Gotland have always been a problem team for us,’ said Jersey captain Matthew Morel.
‘We rattled them a lot. We did our homework and had a strategy to go for their shorter players. We played to our plan but they were stronger than us.’
Blows were traded up to 10-10 before Gotland edged themselves ahead, and although Jersey did lose the opener 25-17 the eight-point margin was hardly reflective of the Caesareans’ display. They were at times more than equal to the hosts and played a crucial part in an enthralling battle.
Hits and blocks were strong on both sides of the net, but rallies were often extended by solid defensive play. Neither side was going to give up the chance to play in a medal match without a fight.
Questionable umpiring decisions left Jersey frustrated early in the second, and setter Mick Toal, at 56 years of age, was brought on in an attempt to level the match. But the Swedes edged 2-0 ahead with a 25-21 set-success.
From there, Jersey’s heads dropped and their fluidity was lost. They did enough to scrape 15 points, but there was a sense of acceptance from midway through the third.
The defeat sent Jersey into a play-off against Greenland for fifth and sixth.
Morel added: ‘Our main aim was to do better than Guernsey and beat Cayman and Bermuda, and we’ve done that. Now we want fifth.’
On the sand at the Visborg beach arena, Karolina Zablocka and Luisa Abreu won the ‘Battle of Jersey’; beating their colleagues Nicki Appleton and Kristina Sokic 21-10, 21-19 in the women’s group stage. Both pairs were back in action later in the day, but suffered two defeats; Zablocka and Abreu to Gotland and Appleton and Sokic to Menorca.
Jersey’s second-seed men’s pair of Andre Fortunato and Paul Gartshore claimed sixth overall, out of 11, after finishing 2-0 down in their play-off against Gotland 2.
And, after an hour of uncertainty, Jersey’s indoor women were assured third in Group A after Guernsey beat Gotland. As a result, they were due to play Bermuda for fifth and sixth on Thursday.
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