Opponents: Warwick Riga Competition: National League Division 1 Date: Saturday 28th February 2004 Venue: Bacon's College, Rotherhithe Result: 3-0 Win (25-21, 25-22, 30-28) Headline: Docklands demolish Riga's title challenge Author: Andy Hopper
At the weekend London Docklands Volleyball guaranteed that their quest to win the Prosport National League Division 1 title will go down to their last game by beating title rivals Warwick Riga 3-0. They now must wait till 28th March to take on London Malory in the game that will decide the winner of this season's championship.
At the start of the day both teams knew the importance of the game with the winner guaranteed the chance to take Malory's title away from them. Both sides seemed nervous in the early exchanges but Docklands superior defence through blocks from Boris Halatchev and pick-ups from Nicolas Ruh saw them take a 8-4 lead. But a series of unforced errors from Docklands along with strong blocking from Riga saw the visitors level the scores at 9-9. The home side fought back with Ruh producing a series of difficult serves putting pressure on Riga's young Libero Matthew Howe and Riga's coach Tom Young was forced to take his first time out at 14-9 down.
His strong words seemed to have their desired effect with his side clawing their way back to 14-13. But a run of deceptive jump serves from Martin Blake saw Docklands take control of the set again. Docklands were not in the mood to give up their lead and kills from Albrecht Glitz and Jesse Kaptein cemented Docklands position. A Riga fight back forced Docklands' coach Ian Legrand to call a time out at 24-21. The delay seemed to disrupt Riga's momentum as their captain Phil Wyles served the next point out to gift Docklands the first set 25-21.
The second set started very evenly with both sides demonstrating why they are two of the best teams in English volleyball with some remarkable rallies that could have gone to either side. The scores reached 13-13 and neither side was able to open up a significant lead. It remained nip and tuck until a block from Docklands' Andy Vincett opened up a lead that his team did not let go, taking the set 25-22.
Riga were wounded and most teams would have given up under such circumstances but their fighting qualities came through and score reached 19-19 in the third set. This was in the middle of a service run from Riga's main hitter Kees de Hoogh who helped add two more points to give Riga a seemingly unassailable lead. However, a service run from Glitz gave Docklands some hope but a kill from de Hoogh gave Riga their first set point.
Docklands have worked hard on their mental preparation and with the help of sports psychologist Julie York have developed a harder edge to their play. This helped them maintain their self-belief and a hit off the block from Kaptein saw them survive the first set point. The advantage then switched between each team with some fiercely contested rallies. But a rare hitting error from de Hoogh gave Docklands another chance and a block from Blake gave Docklands the set 30-28.
Docklands' 3-0 win perfectly sets up their final match with Malory. Riga can still play a part in the destination of the league title - if they manage to beat Malory on 13th March, Docklands will only have to beat Malory in the final game of the season. If Riga fail to beat Malory then Docklands will need to beat Malory 3-0. Docklands are still capable of such a result but they cannot avoid any sort of slip in the tightest fight for the title in over ten years.
After Docklands' latest victory, coach Legrand said, "This result shows what we are capable of but this was just the semi-final. We must now concentrate on the final game. However, before that we have a cup final to reach". Indeed, next weekend Docklands face Malory in the semi-final of the KO cup. A win would set-up Docklands for a unique treble. But Legrand was still emphasising the "one game at a time" philosophy that has epitomised their recent play.
An alternative report by Douglas Barr-Hamilton from 3Touch Volleyball Magazine is below.
Title race just gets tighter
London Docklands threw the race for the league title wide open when they revenged a 3:1 defeat in Warwick in mid-November. Today the pride of South-east London put their visitors under the greater pressure from their service to their attacks and thoroughly deserved to shade a thrilling result. The match attracted supporters for both teams and they showed generous appreciation at the end of the tense and exciting match for all the skill that had been shown.
However, it was Warwick Riga who first exerted the pressure and a line of shirts numbered 4, 5 and 6: Tom Spijkers, Andy Lynn and John Gilling blocked danger man Albrecht Glitz. He was blocked again to make it 0:2. Then a big mistake: as Docklands scrambled up a difficult ball the cry went up, Free ball! Glitz does not give free balls: 1:2. And with a dig clipping a cable high in the roof, it was quickly two all. For a while the teams traded point for point but Docklands took control in mid set to move from 9:8 to 14:9 then held on against a spirited fight-back by Riga in which Spijkers and Lynn were conspicuous. They forced a time out at 24:21 but then nervously served out.
Set two could have gone either way. First, Docklands enjoyed a slender early lead but were caught at 11:11. Next it was Rigas turn to go in front only for the home side to draw level at 17:17. The score was still tied at 22:22. Then another Warwick serve floated long. Untypically, Andy Lynn hit out and, on set point, the Docklands block of Martin Blake and Andy Vincett made no mistake as Lynn launched another attack.
The third set was magnificent as Docklands repelled attack after attack and forced enough errors from time to time to make their own pressure tell. Warwick had a two-point lead at 2:4 and a three-point lead at 20:23. In between Docklands clung on to a slight advantage lost only at 19:19. But that 23rd point angered Andy Vincett, penalised for a handling fault for a one-handed pass. It looked as though it angered Albrecht Glitz as well for he produced a thunderbolt attack down the line then rotated to hammer two fearsome serves to tie the score again. Riga earned its first set point with a perfect dump by Tom Spijkers. Boris Halatchev saved the set. Several minutes of play followed each side losing two set points. Then Riga presented a free ball to Martin Blake at the net: 29:28. No time for a thank-you letter. Andy Vincett found Albrecht Glitz with a beautiful pass for the 100th time and he hit perfectly, the ball clipping the despairing block.
Riga travel to Osterley to play title-holders London Malory on 13th March and Malory have to face Docklands in Rotherhithe on 27th March. Any one of the three can still walk off with the trophy.