When the chips were down, Fort Hare’s men’s volleyball team showed strength of character to win the Nelson Mandela University tournament in Gqeberha recently.
The Alice outfit were staring down the barrel in the final of the inaugural tournament against the experienced VW team before a dramatic comeback saw them record a 3-2 victory.
Head coach Hope Fata praised her charges for turning the tables on the Kariega side after having stumbled against them in the group stages.
“We were highly motivated to redeem ourselves,” Fata said afterwards.
She said it had been an interesting match-up as the opponents were all senior players who edged the students in terms of experience and tactical play.
“It was a key moment for us because we knew we had to look at where we went wrong earlier to create a solid game plan for the final and prove that we had what it took to be competitive.”
Despite Fort Hare throwing everything but the kitchen sink at their rivals, the final went south quickly after VW calmly controlled play to win the first two sets.
“It was a bit disheartening because they won those sets fairly comfortably (25-17, 25-19),” said Fata.
With their opponents just needing to land one more hammer blow, it seemed the students would be on the wrong side of the scoreline for the second time during the competition.
However, they showed maturity beyond their years to pick themselves up mentally and win the third set. With the momentum firmly on their side, they swept both the fourth and fifth sets as well.
“That final outcome really meant a great deal to us,” explained Fata. “They were rewarded for hard work, and it showed that they could recover from defeat to display their true fighting spirit.”
Fort Hare captain Khanya Madikizela was named most valuable player of the tournament and Musa Mothlobane the best setter. Even so, the latter had to deal with injury throughout, eventually succumbing to cramps after the third set of the final.
“He was a bit despondent because he felt he had let the side down, but his teammates showed how they all have each other’s backs by pulling strongly together to make up for his absence and going on to win.”
She also praised the skipper for leading by example and keeping the team together whenever doubt crept in.
Their ability to shut out distractions combined with their all-for-one attitude will stand them in good stead for the USSAs in Limpopo in July.