Mary's best in land Senior and cadette teams too good for Northern champs

Lindie Naughton

St Mary's Naas proved that they are the best girls' volleyball school on this island when they beat the Northern Ireland champions in both senior and cadette play-offs in home ties.

After retaining their 'A' title when they beat St Leo's Carlow at the Irish Championships in March, the cadette girls had taken a break. It meant they took a while to get into their stride and were pushed hard in their opening set against Northern Ireland cadette champions Craigavon High School, captained by Judith Edgar.

Captaining St Mary's was Sarah Benn who, with twin sister Karen, is a member of the Irish junior squad. The pair used their height to good effect at the net, blocking well and picking up points. But Craigavon were no pushovers and with St Mary's prone to the odd mistake, were never more than a few points adrift.

Only in the final stages of the opening set did St Mary's pull away to nail down a 25-22 victory, with server Maeve O'Brien ensuring they took the three points they needed. Other key players included setter Sylvia Power and Aisling Clancy in the middle.

With confidence returning, St Mary's raced to a 7-4 lead in the second set. Craigavon still put them under pressure with some long rallies but, in the end, Anne-Marie Kelly served out the second set for the Naas side, with the final score 25-22, 25-12.

In the senior match, St Mary's took on Dalriada HS Ballymoney in a three-setter. Key player for Dalriada was captain Kerry Kirkpatric, also the Northern Ireland captain. Other dangerous players included Caroline Goodliffe and Lauren Ramage.

St Mary's came out fighting, with powerful hitting from captain Katie Nolan, great movement around the court from Gina Burke and sisters Heather and Aisling Clancy, and solid blocking from Karen and Sarah Benn.

St Mary's led from the start, winning the first set 25-17 and the second 25-15. They held their concentration to wrap up the match 25-20 in the third, with Katie Nolan scoring an ace to win.

Senior team: Katie Nolan (captain), Aebhin Nugent, Heather Clancy, Karen Benn, Sarah Benn, Emer Kenny, Eimear Woods, Aisling Clancy, Gina Burke and Amy Dowling, libero.

Cadette team: Sarah Benn (capt), Karen Benn, Louise Dore, Aoibheann Cassidy, Maeve O'Brien, Aisling Clancy, Anne-Marie Kelly, Cliodhna Duffy, Sylvia Power, Katie Dore.