VOLLEYBALL: TOP-CLASS action came to Ellesmere Port and Chester at the weekend as Ellesmere Port Eels hosted the two-day English Volleyball Association Area Cup along with the Merseyside Volleyball League.
A total of 16 teams from across the country played in the event held at the EPIC and County Officers Club, Chester.
Cheshire Men came from Ellesmere Port Eels, Bridgewater Diamonds (Warrington), Knutsford, Kingsway (Widnes) and Crewe & Alsager College.
In their first match against a strong Berkshire team, Cheshire struggled at first to gain an understanding, losing 25-17 and 25-18. However, they played much better in the final set to win by the narrowest of margins, 25-24, with Eels' Magdi Taher one of their most effective attackers.
Facing the group favourites Suffolk in the next game, Cheshire lost the opening set 25-24. The second set also went to Suffolk 25-18, although this score flattered them. It was essential that Cheshire took the final set if they were to have any chance of qualifying, and this they eventually did by 25-23.
The arrival of Mohammed Makded of Eels for this game gave Cheshire more firepower, which they exploited against Greater Manchester in their final game to win by straight sets 25-17, 25-23, 25-22.
Unfortunately, results in the other games meant Cheshire failed to qualify as they finished equal second with Suffolk but lost out to them as the game between the two teams went the way of the East Anglians.
Playing for 5th to 8th place, Cheshire started with a convincing 25-10, 25-16 victory against Greater Manchester.
The Ladies competition saw a last-minute split of Cheshire's squad following the late withdrawal of London Ladies.
Cheshire 1 was centred on five of the Eels squad that won the Merseyside Cup three days previously - Gaelle Barbotin, Jane McElhoney, Ade McGraa, Ursula Hill and Erin Edwards.
Meanwhile, EPIC's Sue Halliday and Dawn Tarrant-Hoare were in the Cheshire 2 squad.
Cheshire 1 finished equal top of their qualifying group despite starting with a disastrous first set against Suffolk, losing 25-11 before fighting through to win the next two 25-24, 25-16.
Another close game against Greater Manchester saw them lose 2-1. Cheshire then powered through 3-0 (25-19, 25-23, 25-18) against Berkshire.
In the County Officers qualifying group, Cheshire 2 lost all matches without winning a set.
In the semi-final group, Cheshire 1 started with a 25-20, 25-19 loss against Manchester and while the team did well after a 25-14 loss to Northants to push them in the second set, they were edged out 25-23.
In Cheshire 1's final game, with only pride to play for, they vented frustrations on Essex to secure third spot. Erin Edwards was Cheshire's most valuable player.
The Ladies final saw a Northamptonshire team containing ex-Whitby pupil Caroline Gore win a competitive final against Manchester 3-1.
On Saturday, Eels host the annual Cheshire Four-A-Side Men's tournament at the EPIC and County Officers Club. Action starts from 11.30am-7pm.