Scotland attempt to win the women’s U19 Small Countries Division European
Championship title for the first time in Edinburgh this weekend, having struck silver and bronze at previous events.
Upgrading those medals is easier said than done with the hosts facing Northern Ireland, the Faroe Islands, Luxembourg and Cyprus in the three-day tournament in the Scottish capital.
Head coach Vince Krawczyk welcomes home advantage but also knows it can be a burden if the team falls short of expectation. He is confident he has as talented a group as has ever represented Scotland at this level but also hits a note of caution.
“While we are excited about this group of players, you never know how it will translate into a match situation,” he points out. “Particularly in under-age tournaments, you never know the standard of opposition. Cyprus are always a difficult opponent and I don’t think a Scotland team has won a match against them at international level, senior or under-age, although we have had close matches against them.
“Luxembourg have a well-developed group of players and we don’t know what to expect from them. The Faroe Islands have reportedly been doing well and Northern Ireland, who are maybe seen as the underdogs, are capable to presenting their own problems.”
Krawczyk, and his coaching staff, know the players well and, in some cases, have worked with them for five years, coaching them at club level and at the UK School Games.
As the most successful club coach in Scottish Volleyball history, he has seen it all in the game but confesses he is excited about the tournament. “We have some talented players to watch out for. Rachel Morrison is playing at top division level with Troon and Shona Fraser has done well with Aberdonia in the Scottish League,” he continues. “Both are powerful, left-sided hitters who I’m sure will get the crowd going. As a coaching staff, we have to make sure we maximise the performance of the players and don’t waste or underplay the talent we have. Whereas in the past, we have chosen our final squad from maybe 13-15 players, but this time there is much more breadth and depth at U19 level in Scotland and we had up to 25 players of a good standard to choose from. It was difficult cutting the squad down to 12 players.”
Northern Ireland open the tournament against Cyprus on Friday (1pm) before the Faroe Islands take on Luxembourg (4pm) and Scotland start their home campaign against Northern Ireland at 7pm.
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