Volleyball: Good show as Scots reach finals

Scotland women’s volleyball team made the Maltese cross by reaching the final stages of the European Championship Small Countries Division at the expense of their hosts in Cospicua last night.

Malta could still have qualified for next year’s finals with a straight sets win but Scotland managed to hold off their opponents to win a tense five-set battle 23-25, 25-13, 25-16, 19-25, 15-11.

Former City of Edinburgh hitter Jenn Thom was player of the match with 22 point-winning spikes as she made a huge contribution to the victory.

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Scotland had lost to Cyprus 16-25, 16-25, 16-25 on Saturday which meant they needed to win both of their matches yesterday to qualify. They beat Ireland 25-16, 25-17, 25-19 in the morning and then showed their fitness by holding off Malta in their final match.

Had things worked out differently, Thom could have been with the Great Britain squad in Glasgow as they played their final matches before head coach Audrey Cooper makes her final cut before the Olympics. But Thom was cut from the squad earlier this year. It was originally billed as a double-header with Algeria but the African champions ran into visa problems at the 11th hour which forced a change in plan.

Instead, Cooper’s side faced a strong British men’s select with former Edinburgh Jets’ hitter Paul Glissov, who was also once part of the GB plans, in impressive form.

It was the men who won both encounters (25-17, 20-25, 25-15, 25-19 and 25-17, 19-25, 27-25, 25-18) but Cooper maintained that it was valuable Olympic preparation facing players who hit harder than most women’s national teams.

Cooper will tell the players tonight which ones are not part of her final squad but Scottish captain Lynne Beattie is safe and East Lothian’s Jo Morgan is also expected to make it.

In a busy weekend of volleyball, Edinburgh’s Shauna Mullin and English partner Zara Dampney failed to secure an extra beach place for Britain at the Olympics when they lost out in the quarter-finals of the Continental Cup in Moscow, going down 3-1 to the Netherlands.

Mullin and Dampney remain favourites to get the automatic place for GB as the host nation.