Great Britain men’s team put on a volleyball spectacular for the Sheffield public with an emotion-charged win over Croatia in their opening match in the European League at the English Institute of Sport.
Harry Brokking’s team were just two points from a straight sets defeat against a powerful Croatian team building towards Olympic qualification.
But they stunned the opposition by storming back to win in five sets 21-25, 21-25, 26-24, 25-18, 15-4, destroying Croatia in the final set.
Yassir Sliti, who plays his club volleyball in Belgium, produced his best performance in a GB shirt as he tore the Croatian block apart much to the delight of the vociferous crowd.
Following hard on the heels of a win over a full-strength China - ranked 11th in the world - in a challenge match in Sheffield last week, Brokking was proud of his squad.
“This summer we have to make a big step up. Beating China was very nice but we have to beat others to show the rest of the volleyball world that our guys are coming. That’s the signal we have given by beating China’s starting line-up from the World Championships.
“To then defeat a big, strong team like Croatia after being two sets down shows that you cannot break this side.
“We have a lot of talent and a lot of character and that’s a winning combination.”
Unfortunately, GB could not repeat the victory in the second match, going down 18-25, 21-25, 15-25.
The GB team travel to Belgium this weekend looking for a win, the Belgians having lost twice to Slovenia in the same pool.
GB captain and former Sheffield University student Ben Pipes admitted the loss was difficult to take: “The second set was our opportunity but the fuse never lit and we just never took off. It’s a massive disappointment.
The results means that when the team return to Sheffield to face Slovenia at Ponds Forge on June 10-11, there will be no margin for error. “We need to come out of our shell a bit and establish ourselves away from home,” added Pipes. “We need to try and win both matches in Belgium this weekend. We have to finish top to qualify for the Final Four.’’