Volleyball scholars Taylor Wilson and Mark Garcia-kidd have just finished the Volleyball England Beach Tour (VEBT) as a duo. They have had a very successful season finishing as the second best team on the VEBT Champions Race.
The team finished the season in a strong position with great performances in the last two tournaments, Weymouth and Margate. As students, Taylor and Mark had to balance their studies with their commitments to training and tournaments, this wasn’t easy. The team first came together for the Beach Student Cup, often finding it hard to find training partners and a venue to train in. However, thanks to the support from UELSports the duo were able to attend and win the Cup, making themselves known as champions.
After the Student Cup, the Skegness Volleyball England Beach Tournament event was next for the team. The tournament was a weekend of mixed feelings as the team underperformed and finished in 9th. It wasn’t without its highlights however, as Taylor earned the team a parking ticket and the tradition of a chocolate kebab on a Sunday morning before driving home was born.
Knowing that at Skegness the team had underperformed, an improved performance was a must in the next tournament, Great Yarmouth. Unlucky for the team they were drawn against a French guest team that regularly competed in the world tour and narrowly lost in the 3rd set 15-12. The team then had to get through the long way, and win 5 games to get through to Sunday. After some close matches, the team progressed through to Sunday but were drawn to play the French team again that morning. The team went out to the French who then went on to win the tournament in two sets. An improved performance from Skegness but yet to achieve a semi-final spot.
Weston-Super-Mare was next at VEBT and the team’s lowest finish at 13th. The team weren’t achieving their full potential. With three weeks to Weymouth – the Wimbledon of beach volleyball in the UK – it was agreed that they would increase training before the big one on the 1st August.
With the heaviest rain all summer on the Friday night and Saturday morning the tournament start time was pushed back from 9am to 10:30am. The team’s first match was against Rayan Stout and Matt Hunter, a pair who had just returned from the world u21 championships. The UEL’s Wilson and Garcia-Kidd went on to win the match 2-0 and progress to the 3rd round after receiving a bye to the 2nd round. The team would face Mark Baechli and Christoph Datler, a team who had been in the semi-finals of every event on the VEBT. After a hard fought match the UEL duo lost 2-1 and went into the loser’s bracket of the draw. They then faced the Sam’s, Sam Allen and Sam Warlond who will be competing at the CEV u20 in September. After a mammoth first set – 28-26 – the team went on to win 2-0 and faced Carl Butcher and Andy Clayton, Carl being the former partner of Mark. Having lost to this team in Skegness there was a score to settle, as Taylor named it “Redemption Saturday”. After another contested first set – 25-23 – the team went on to dominate and win the match 2-0, moving onto Sunday’s game against Dawid Skora/ Kuba Korczyk the Polish team who had been the surprise package of the VEBT.
After a nervous start, the UEL men went on to win their match 2-1 and faced Baechli/Datler once more for a place in the final. This match was full of long rallies and skilful shots, it could have gone either way and was level pegging all the way in the 3rd set. But after a pick up from Taylor on defence who scored the point that gave the gap they needed to win the 3rd set 16-14 and the match 2-1 booking a place in the final against Kimber/Smith.
The final was a closely contested match and hard hitting with some outstanding defensive plays. The first set saw Kimber/smith edge out the first set 21-19 and the second set looked like it would go the same way as Kimber and Smith led 17-13. However, after a net band ace and some huge defensive plays the set was level at 20-20, with a defensive play from Mark giving the team their first set point and eventually their first set. The third set became completely one sided with the Kimber crumbling as Taylor put pressure on the serve. The duo led 9-1 in the race to 15. With Taylor latching on to an overpass and bouncing the ball over the marque, he confirmed the team as Weymouth champions for 2014. Mark was voted MVP of the tournament. With the Weymouth win the team qualified for the final event in Margate were only the top 8 teams would compete.
Margate would be the last tournament for the UEL pair and with two wins in their pool they would face Kimber/Smith for a place in the semi-finals. Losers would have to play later on in a quarter-final to get through to Sunday. The first set was a closely fought match with the Kimber/Smith taking it 27-25, Wilson/Garcia-Kidd failed to recover. They lost 2-0 and went on to face Clayton/Butcher for a place in the semi-final. This was the hardest match of the day for the team. With Mark having dizzy spells and struggling to move, the possibility of a medical time out was high. The first set went to Wilson/Garcia-Kidd with the second going the other way. The third set was a question of who wanted it more. The team were strong and lead the match 14-12 up. Even after Clayton/Butcher levelled up, the UEL duo opened up a lead and won the third set 19-17.
Sunday morning came and Wilson/Garcia-Kidd faced Chris Gregory who is currently playing on the world tour and Aden Tutton a London 2012 Olympian. This was a great match with lots of big hits and cleaver shots. The first set went to Gregory/Tutton 21-12 but Wilson/Garcia-Kidd found their form and went on to take the second 21-16. The third set was close and with both teams siding out perfectly, who ever got the two point gap first would be favourites to win. Unfortunately this lead went to Gregory/Tutton who went on to win the third set 15-13. Many described this game as the best they had seen all season, even though the team lost the match it was a high level of beach volleyball. The fact that the season had come to end wasn’t a disappointment, the team had been involved in a great game of beach volleyball.
“Being able to achieve what we did this season wouldn’t have been possible without UEL Sports. Without our travel aid and training costs covered, becoming Weymouth champions and the 2nd best team on the VEBT would not have happened. Thank you UEL Sports, as a team next we look forward to improving and competing on the European stage to further our development as a team.” – Mark Garcia-Kidd