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Ireland vs. Malta 0:3 (12-25, 16-25, 14-25)

Ireland won the opening two points in the first set, but Malta hit back and led by 8-5 at the technical time-out after middle blocker Martha Muldowney’s tip dropped inches out of court. Alison Borg played a captain’s part by contributing three consecutive points to take Malta to 18-8 and they stretched away to take the set by 25-12. Ireland fought for every point in the second set with some breathtaking back-court defense and led by 8-7 at the technical time-out. But Malta stepped up a gear in the final third of the set with Thais Gatt and clinched the set by 25-16 with a cross-court hit. Ireland kept the intensity going in the third set with outside hitter Sharon Lee finding gaps in the Maltese block, but it was Malta that led by 8-4 at the technical time-out. Malta kept a firm grip on the set and held off a late Irish fightback to win the set by 25-14.

Gertrude Zarb with 15 points, Thais Gatt with 13 and Alison Borg with 12 were the top scorers of the match. Ireland’s most prolific player Ashling Clancy ended up with 8 points.

Tibor Strajanek head coach of Malta: “I am happy winning at least two matches. It was difficult for us on Friday playing against the two strongest teams and that was not easy, but we were happy to take a set off Cyprus.”

Willem Klaas Roosenburg, head coach of Ireland: “It does not say it in the figures, but I think it was an even match. Maybe not in the first set, but I thought we were unlucky. I am not saying Malta did not deserve to win, but the ball just did not drop for us. But this team only came together in February and we have only had four or five weekends to work together.”

Edel Nolan, captain of Ireland: “We were just a little disappointed not to get a win. But the Maltese are an experienced team and we gave them a run for their money.”