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Malta vs. Northern Ireland 3:0 (25-7, 25-12, 25-7)

Northern Ireland found it difficult finding a way past a solid Maltese block in the first set and trailed by 1-8 at the first technical time-out. Left-hander Belinda Milton served tough as Malta won eight points without reply to move to 18-5 and saw out the set at 25-7. Northern Ireland improved in the second set and came back from 1-5 down to level at 6-6. Libero Alice Harkness produced one unbelievable pick-up from the floor as the Irish offered more resistance, but Malta comfortably took the set by 25-12. Some strong serving from Sara El Gasi brought Malta a 6-0 lead at the start of the third set, but Northern Ireland dug deep to win the next three points. Malta only increased the pressure to lead by 16-5 at the second technical time-out with Milton providing the foundation from the serving line and went on to take the set by 25-7 to clinch the victory.

Gertrude Zarb and Alison Borged made 13 and 11 points, respectively, while Northern Ireland’s top scorer was Aimee Nixon with 3 points.

Tibor Strajanek, head coach of Malta: “I am very happy because we prepared well, had good tactics and the players used the tactics. They played well in defense, had patience in the long rallies and we won almost all of them. We had good pressure from the serving line and that was very important.”

Callum Grieve, head coach of Northern Ireland: “We are disappointed. What we delivered is not a true reflection on all the hard work the girls have put in. You have to execute on court and I did not think we did that and looked a bit fearful at times. You need to have an aggressive approach and we did not have that today.”

Aimee Nixon, captain of Northern Ireland: “We just did not play. I do not know whether it is down to tiredness or not, but we will rebound from this. We were ready for two games in one day but we just did not perform.”