City learn brutal truth of competing in Europe

Connor Boyle attacks for City of Edinburgh against Viking but he is blocked by Kristian Bjelland and Jon Erlend Jaukas. Picture: www.volleyballphotos.co.uk

Connor Boyle attacks for City of Edinburgh against Viking but he is blocked by Kristian Bjelland and Jon Erlend Jaukas. Picture: www.volleyballphotos.co.uk

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City of Edinburgh learned much from their first taste of European volleyball competition and it has only whetted their appetite.

Wednesday night’s 18-25, 15-25, 21-25 defeat by Viking TIF Bergen in the second leg of their CEV Challenge Cup tie in front of a sell-out crowd at the Oriam was not unexpected.

The Norwegian side are hugely experienced at this level but Edinburgh, the first Scottish men’s team to play in Europe for 24 years, were by no means outclassed.

Their passing game stood up well and captain Niall Collin had some memorable hits and, under his serving, the team saved five match points.

But coach Ally Jack admitted his players found scoring points harder than in the first leg in Norway (which the Scots also lost in straight sets) against a well-drilled Bergen defence.

“Maybe we showed them too much respect at times but I couldn’t ask for any more from my players,” he said. “Bergen’s height advantage was a significant factor but our passing game held together well. If we were playing this opposition every week, you’d see a big difference.”

Bergen train for 20 hours a week, 16 of which is on court but Jack acknowledged that his players could not match that given the cost of court hire in Edinburgh.

The club pays £50 an hour to train and with players having to fork out, it is a different set-up in this country.

Bergen’s Canadian coach Scott Olsen had encouraging words for the Scots: “We saw from the first leg that they are a scrappy team and they pick up a lot that you wouldn’t expect.

“But this is where we were seven or eight years ago and we had to play in Europe to take it to the next level.”

What Wednesday evening did show was what a fantastic arena the new performance centre at Heriot-Watt University is.

It is just a pity that the cost for sports to hire the facilities are prohibitive.