Competition: Whitefield Tournament, Men's Premier Division Date: Saturday 17th & Sunday 18th July 2004 Venue: Bath Final Result: 3-1 Win against Warwick Riga (25-20, 25-21, 22-25 and 25-14) Headline: Docklands regain their Whitefield crown Author: Andy Hopper
London Docklands have regained their Men's Premier title at the 31st Whitefield Volleyball Tournament after defeating National League rivals Warwick Riga. Docklands remained unbeaten during the weekend tournament in Bath which saw the last Docklands performance for a year from captain Albrecht Glitz who is about to leave for the US to study.
The gruelling schedule began with four pool matches on Saturday. Although Docklands dropped a couple of sets they won their pool convincingly. This set-up a tough semi-final match on Sunday morning against Sheffield. The northern side were boosted by ex-Sheffield and Docklands player Alex Porter. The England international spent last season playing semi-professionally in Sweden, and his undoubted talents strengthened an already formidable Sheffield squad. However, Docklands were able to call on two of their own old boys. Danny Weemes, who played for Copenhagen side Holte last season, returned to his old club and gave Docklands another powerful outlet to add to that already supplied by Jesse Kaptein and Glitz. Docklands' squad was further enhanced by the return of Australian Aaron Stolberg, who has now confirmed that he will be rejoining Docklands for the start of the next domestic season. His raw power and unpredictability will be a major asset to Docklands' next assault on the Division 1 title.
The semifinal started well for Docklands with clean winners from Glitz and Weemes helping to open up an early 6-2 lead. Effective blocking from Boris Halatchev cemented Docklands' position and Sheffield looked bamboozled by their opponent's attacking options. However, their defence began to pick-up more of Docklands' attacks and their hitters started to have more success at the net. Their hard work was rewarded and the scores were levelled at 20-20. Then two consecutive Sheffield blocks opened up a crucial two-point lead from which Docklands could not recover - Sheffield took the set 25-22.
At the start of the second set Docklands made a tactical switch and moved Weemes into his more familiar position of opposite hitter. Setter Andy Vincett started to find his old teammate more easily and Weemes frequently provided the killer blow. Docklands were always in control of the second set and a run of four serves at the end of the set from Vincett helped his team to 25-19 win.
The third set could not have started any worse for Docklands with individual errors allowing Sheffield to take a 4-0 lead. They maintained this advantage until 8-4 and after a side out from Weemes, Docklands' captain Glitz went back to serve. He produced a run of three powerful jump serves to help level the scores at 8-8. The teams then exchanged points until 10-10 and it was Vincett's turn to serve again. His deceptive float serves caused the Sheffield passing unit problems and two blocks from Halatchev and Weemes gave Docklands the advantage. After a Sheffield time out Docklands inflicted a further blow with Halatchev dispatching an unreturnable attack. Sheffield were now in disarray and two consecutive errors gave Docklands a 15-10 third set win and a place in the final for the second year in a row.
Docklands had been expecting to face their London rivals Malory in the final but a resurgent Warwick Riga produced the surprise of the tournament by beating Malory 2-0 in their semifinal Docklands had already beaten Warwick 2-0 in their first pool match on Saturday so the London side started the final as favourites. Although Warwick were missing a few of their regulars they still had a number of experienced players and had the additional power of guest player Ed Ekanem. At the start of the first set they used all their experience to keep themselves in the game and mid way through the set they held a 15-12 lead after a run of jump serves from Chris Anderson. However, Docklands recovered to level the scores at 20-20 and once again it was Vincett's turn in the service box. His first serve caused Warwick to gift Docklands an over pass which Martin Blake dispatched with his usual power to win the point. Further service pressure from Vincett gave setter Phil Wyles limited attacking options and Docklands were able to setup their block early to devastating effect. First Weemes and then Halatchev delivered kill blocks to give their side a 23-20 lead. Docklands were on a roll and maintained the pressure to take the last five points of the set, winning 25-20.
Docklands were able to continue this momentum into the second set and quickly raced into a 13-7 lead. However, Warwick's jump servers were causing Docklands constant problems and they fought their way back into the set, forcing Docklands into a time out even though they were still leading 21-19. Docklands then showed their experience in tight situations to close out the set 25-21.
Docklands then seemed to think the victory was in the bag but Warwick had other ideas. They continued to compete for every ball while Docklands seemed to be running out of energy. Despite the introduction of crowd favourite Stolberg, Warwick took the third set 25-22.
Docklands' coach Danny Primus returned to his starting six for the start of the fourth set and insisted on a more focused display. His team responded with a rejuvenated performance that seemed to take Warwick by surprise. Kaptein produced a run of tricky short serves that gave Warwick's passing unit problems and Docklands' blockers held firm to deny the Warwick attackers space at the net. A 7-1 lead quickly became a 22-10 advantage for Docklands and the result was then inevitable. It was appropriately left to Glitz to provide the killer blow at the second attempt - Docklands won the set 25-14.
Docklands' successful defence of their Whitefield crown is a promising sign for the new domestic season in September. Despite the loss of Glitz, Docklands hope to be able to announce further new players in the next few weeks. Docklands were also given a boost last week when sponsors Aspect Capital confirmed that they would be continuing their support of the club. This is the third year in a row that the hedge fund management company has supported Docklands and the club plan to use some of the sponsorship to fund a pre-season trip to Northern Europe to help the squad gain valuable experience against stronger opposition.
See a selection of photos here.