Opponents: Warwick Riga
London Docklands Volleyball have survived a real scare in their hunt for the division 1 title. Facing Warwick Riga, last season's runners-up, the east London side knew that they would be up against tough opponents but did not expect the visitors to come back from 2-0 down to force a deciding fifth set. However, in a pulsating match Docklands were able to hold their nerve and secure a crucial 3-2 win.
The first two sets had started well for Docklands, as they sealed wins 25-22 and 25-20. Warwick were unable to cope with the power and subtly of Docklands' hitters, particularly Vaclav Petricek and Aaron Stolberg. Docklands setter Andy Vincett was also having a solid game and was keeping all his hitters supplied with consistent sets to despatch with ease past despairing Warwick blockers. Although Mohammed Sliti's form was causing coach Ian Legrand some concern his team were dealing comfortably with Warwick's attackers and should have won the first two sets more comfortably.
The third set could not have started better with kills from Stolberg and Boris Halatchev allowing Docklands to take an early lead. But three consecutive Warwick points swung the momentum back in their favour and Docklands' confidence seemed to be hit. With Warwick's Kees De Hoogh and Andy Carr starting to consistently pass Docklands' block the visitors were able to stay ahead. A run of serves from John Gilling helped open up a two point gap and Warwick never looked back. Another run of serves from Phil Wyles saw Warwick's lead go to five points and despite valiant defence from Docklands' Libero Nicolas Ruh Warwick took the set 25-20.
Legrand shuffled his team slightly by introducing power hitter Jesse Kaptein but despite scoring five points for his team Warwick fought their way into a deciding fifth set. De Hoogh was unstoppable and Chris Anderson continued to be a real thorn in Docklands' side, winning many of his points wiping off the Docklands' block.
The fifth set shoot out to 15 points is often won by the team that is best at holding its nerve. This proved to be one of those occasions with both sides determined to fight to the end the score reached 8-8. The crowd had been treated to some spectacular, long rallies with both sides defending every ball to the death. But it was two consecutive kills from Kaptein that broke the deadlock, forcing Warwick to take the first timeout at 10-8. A Docklands service error and a block by Gilling on Kaptein restored parity but two Stolberg kills and a setting error by Wyles gave the advantage back to Docklands. The second Stolberg kill came after an amazing pick-up by Ruh which Halatchev was able to direct in Stolberg's direction and he duly despatched for Docklands to take a 13-10 lead. Both teams then exchanged points which gave Docklands three set points. Sliti gifted Warwick the first with a service error and De Hoogh produced a dramatic block on Stolberg to close the gap to one point. However, after a perfect pass from Ruh, Vincett set-up Petricek who produced his 20th kill to secure a 15-13 Docklands win.
was relived after the match, commenting, "It was a pleasing win but
we must learn a lesson from this match. At half way through the season
we are still in contention for the league and with a real chance of winning
the title". Docklands captain Vincett added, "We showed
real spirit in the final set but we should not have put ourselves in that
position. We must learn how to put teams away".
Docklands: Kaptein 12 kills (25 attempts), Vincett 2 (3), Halatchev 3 (8), Groy 0 (0), Burns 0 (0), Stolberg 18 (42), Blake 4 (13), Sliti 9 (28), Petricek 20 (43), Ruh (Libero).
Riga: Wyles 0 (5), De Hoogh 16 (37), Gilling 9 (17), Carr 17 (41),
Anderson 9 (28), Ekanem 4 (10), Howe (Libero)