London Docklands Volleyball secured a crucial away win against Sheffield in a scrappy match at Hallam University. Before the match Sheffield stood in fifth place after a mixed season but their home form had been good, only losing to London Malory. The same fixture last season had seen Sheffield go two sets up before an Albrecht Glitz inspired Docklands came back to win in five sets.
The first set started well for Docklands with two kills from Jesse Kaptein and an error from Sheffield's Sam Bussey giving the visitors a 3-0 lead. Docklands had another swing for a point but this time Boris Halatchev was blocked by Tom Ward to give Sheffield their first score. Both sides then traded points until a remarkable run of four consecutive Sheffield points, all scored by England international setter Ben Pipes, saw the home side go 10-8 up. A kill from Aaron Stolberg halted the run and a block by Andy Vincett on Bussey tied the scores. Neither side was able to create a lead until two consecutive blocks from Mohammed Sliti and Stolberg caused Sheffield coach Keith Trenam to take his first time out. Two errors from Docklands balanced the scores but Stolberg produced two unreturnable attacks to take the score to 18-15. Although Docklands were unable to extend their lead they seemed in control. However, two Docklands errors allowed Sheffield back into the set and when Stolberg was blocked by Dave Roberts Sheffield had a set point at 24-23. After a long rally Ward had the chance to win it but blasted his spike wide. He made up for it in the next point and a subsequent error from Stolberg gave Sheffield the set 26-24 - it was no more than they deserved.
Docklands coach Ian Legrand had some hard words for his charges before the second set but it wasn't until an early Sheffield time out at 10-10 that Docklands started to make inroads into the Sheffield defence. A run of Vincett jump serves put pressure on the Sheffield passing unit and their hitters started to make errors. Docklands were in charge at 16-11 up. They held this lead until two consecutive kills from Bussey forced Legrand to take a time out, his side 22-19 up. A kill from Martin Blake settled any Docklands nerves and it was left to Kaptein to seal the set 25-21.
Three Sheffield errors in a row at the start of the third set gifted Docklands an early lead that they never relinquished. Solid service runs from Vincett, Halatchev and Sliti illustrated Docklands dominance and with Kaptein killing everything put his way the set was won comfortably 25-15.
If the third set was all Docklands as they helter-skeltered to an easy win the fourth set was more of a rollercoaster with both sides enjoying healthy leads at different stages of the set. It wasn't until a Docklands time out at 13-11 down that they started to play with any sort of consistency. A service run from Blake seemed to cause disarray on the other side of the net and a block from his middle blocking partner Halatchev saw Docklands go 16-13 up. A further service run from Vincett helped but the set beyond Sheffield as Docklands coasted to a 25-18 fourth set win.
With five matches to go Docklands are closing in on a guaranteed second place but still have their sights on that elusive first title. Coach Legrand said afterwards, "I am pleased with the result but also frustrated that we have not found our best form yet. However, we are in the fortunate position of being 12 and 1 with the knowledge that we can still play much better." Docklands captain and man of the match Vincett added, "I was proud with the way we played today. The attitude out on court was first class and we need to maintain that for our last few matches."
now face a rematch against their cup conquerors Cambridge in a tricky
away fixture in two weeks time before the following week sees title holders
Malory come to Bacon's College for the match that could decide the destination
of this year's title.
Docklands: Kaptein 11 kills (32 attempts), Vincett 0 (0), Halatchev 1 (5), Groy 0 (0), Stolberg 13 (30), Blake 4 (13), Sliti 13 (27), Ruh (Libero).
Pipes 3 (6), Thompson 3 (7), Roberts 3 (18), Bussey 11 (26), Clayden 1
(5), Eruero 4 (9), Melbourne 1 (2), Ward 10 (41), Cassen 1 (1), White