Aircom 2018 Volleyball – Tournament Report, RAF Hawks and Harriers
Held in Amsterdam this year, the ladies fell into the toughest draw against the two most skilled teams in the tournament, the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) and the German Air Force (GAF). As the eventual finalists, they proved their pre-tournament favourites tags.
With their first game against the RNLAF the ladies took time to settle in the first set and then in the second set the RAF ladies came back fighting with strong serving however unfortunately, even though they gave it 100% they were unable to take the set, with a final score of 25-15 and thus losing game 2-0.
The second game of the day saw the RAF Hawks play the GAF. With the ladies starting off a bit shaky the coach took a positive tactical time-out to adjust the team in order to retaliate, and thus allowing the RAF back into the game. The second set started off well with the Hawks taking an early lead but with the Germans being a more experienced team they stepped it up a notch and took back the lead. With some strong attacks and positive defence made by the RAF, the score could have easily been the other way around but sadly the Hawks saw a 2-0 defeat with the second set finishing at 25-18.
In the third and final game of the tournament the RAF ladies were up against the Belgian Air Force to decide 5th and 6th position in the competition. Having watched the other teams throughout the tournament the Hawks went into the game feeling confident of a win. Learning from the previous defeats, the Hawks started each set strongly earning significant leads.
With strong direction from the coach during a time-out the team refocused and saw out the first set 25-18. Despite spirited efforts from the Belgian Team, the Hawks continued to display improved focus, teamwork and tactics to close out the game 2-0 with a 25-16 second set.
A bitter sweet tour overall for the Hawks. The change in format and the pool draw limited the Hawks to only three matches. A draw in the other pool may have resulted in a higher than 5th finish overall. The experience did highlight the teams in-tournament development. Building teamwork and confidence in each fixture ensured performances improved every time the Hawks took to the court. Amsterdam has also demonstrated the potential the Hawks have and set a foundation for other fixtures and tournaments this spring.
The men’s team assembled 16th March at RAF Cranwell for a training camp. They had a great productive few training sessions on the Friday run by the coach SAC Michael Grainger, helping them rid the old and bring in new fresh techniques. The training became more tournament focused over the weekend with tactics being explained and played through. The progress over the weekend was enormous, with great advancement within the RAF Harriers team. The camp was ended with an evening training with National League Division 1 side London Aces. A great opportunity for the team to experience one of the highest levels of volleyball in England. The team performed well above standard and felt they were ready for Amsterdam.
Arriving midday of 20th March the team acclimatised themselves to the venue and at the opening ceremony, all teams were warmly greeted and the competition officially opened.
The RAF Harriers had their first match the morning of the 21st against the Polish Air Force. Against the high seeded side, the RAF battled hard, putting all they had learnt into practice however unfortunately the PAF came out fighting stronger, thus taking the match 2-0
The second match then took the team to see the RNLAF, a much-improved side since the last tournament. Underestimating the opposition, they took the lead in the beginning of the first set and saw the Harriers fall to the RNLAF with a 2-0 loss
These two loses left the Harriers third in the group and heading for the 5th 6th play off the next day. Once all matches were concluded the Harriers were pitched against the USAF(E) in the play off.
The final day of the tournament, knowing it was going to be a hard game after so much volleyball through-out the last week and against such a team but the Harriers knew it was the final push. They fought tooth and nail, head to head, resulting in a final tie breaker set to be played. Some clever switching of positions by the coach saw a strong attack form, which in turn aided in a solid defence. The Harriers took the final set to win 2-1 and the 5th place position in the tournament.
A massive opportunity for all within RAF Volleyball to experience such a high level of volleyball within Europe. Everyone who attended and all the support personnel really stepped up and made sure it was a seamless training camp and tournament. A big thanks to the coach as it was evident that what the teams had learnt during training was put into practice in the tournament, and it worked.