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York miss out on promotion to the Premier North Division after a hard fought defeat at home against Liverpool. Despite taking the first set, they were unable to hold on for the win, although following the tightly matched affair, captain Peter Fisher proudly praised his side's performance as one of their best.
York needed the win against fellow promotion chasers Liverpool to stand any chance of finishing top of the division. The two teams were neck and neck in the opening exchanges, but the home side went ahead following a fumble in the Liverpool defence after a strong Luke Richardson serve. Liverpool then regained the lead until the score line read 19-19, at which point York introduced Mark Freedman who partnered with Harald Fredheim to give them a significant height advantage. York dominated from then on, and took the first set 25-23.
The second set was characterised by confusion and miscommunication amongst the Liverpool side. Multiple players continued to attack the ball, and twice York serves were left to calls of 'out', only to land in play and hand over easy points to the boys in black.
Liverpool polished themselves up to gain a significant lead mid-way through the set. At 17-11 their lead appeared insurmountable, but York fought back hard in what transpired to be the most exciting passage of play in the game. Bringing the score back to 22-22, York had their heads up. The following rally, the longest of the game by some margin, was then won by Fredheim to push York in front, but a late surge from the visitors saw them take the set 25-23.
York were roused by a loud and large attendance in the new sports arena, accompanied by a particularly impassioned performance from first year Ludo Lugnani. However, the opposition slowly began to get a grip on the third set, which they eventually won 25-21. A particularly admirable performance came from Liverpool's Haydn Lawson, who was armed with a remarkably powerful shot, securing points for his side at vital phases of the set.
The final set was fraught with controversy. With the score line tied at 23-23, York, knowing that another set loss would see promotion slip through their fingers, had a score ruled against them following an altercation at the net. Fisher and Alexander Martyn, a stalwart of this spirited York side, challenged the umpire's call (although the exact nature of the challenge is unclear) but the initial decision stood. Liverpool clung on to the lead and were victorious 25-23, giving them a 3-1 victory.
York were dejected but certainly not disheartened. Following the final whistle, captain Fisher said: "Sadly that was both our best and worst game. Our worst because we will miss out on qualifying. Our best because that was our finest performance of the season."
Liverpool will now more than likely win the northern 1A league and secure promotion, even if they eventually lose against bottom placed Manchester seconds in their final fixture. Were York to have won promotion this season, they would have become the first team of any from the University to have won back to back promotions into a top tier division. This would have been a remarkable achievement, given that this focus sport side was limited to just one training session a week at the start of the academic year while renovation work on the sports hall was ongoing.
"If we'd have won, we would have been the first to move straight up to the Premier following a promotion," said Fisher. "Liverpool were the other outstanding team in this league, so this game was vital".
"However, that was one of our best matches, you saw us out there. And I couldn't ask to play with a better group of guys."
The Man of the Match was awarded to Luke Richardson, who secured a number of crucial points during a strong all-round performance.