Opponents: London Polonia
London Docklands Volleyball have ended the year with a confidence boosting win against West London rivals Polonia. The match marked Andy Vincett's last Docklands appearance for at least two years as in the new year he will start a placement in New York. After 197 matches in ten years he will be a hard player to replace with his influence on the club stretching far beyond his performances on-court.
Docklands were keen to give Vincett a suitable send-off and had an extra incentive as they had lost in five sets to the same opponents in the first match of the season. Polonia's form after their exceptional start had been inconsistent and at the start of the match they were languishing in eighth place after only two wins in seven. However, they began the match pumped up and raced into an early lead. Two blocks by their Kiwi setter Ryan Cuthbert sparked wild celebrations and with Docklands unable to penetrate the home side's defence, Polonia capitalised to take a 13-5 lead. Docklands managed to stem the flow but Polonia still looked to have sealed the set at 23-15 up when a Docklands serve failed to make it over the net. However, a block by Efe Eruero on Samuel Piecka seemed to spark Docklands into life and a series of Polonia errors let Docklands back into the set. But a kill by Luciano Pinter steadied his side's nerves and they held onto win the set 25-23.
Docklands took confidence from their run at the end of the first set and helped by a strong run of serves from Vincett took an early lead at the start of set two. With Albrecht Glitz and Alex Inglot powering their way through and off the Polonia block, Docklands opened up an eight point lead. Inglot was making his first return to his old club but after a nervous start was supplying some crucial points for his new team. Although Polonia's six foot ten Stanek Master gave Polonia some hope with two consecutive blocks, Docklands took the set 25-21.
Docklands coach Ian Legrand introduced Neil Masters in set three and his intelligent hitting helped Docklands take a 10-5 lead. Masters, who travels to Glasgow next weekend with the England squad to face Scotland in a three match series, continued to show the sort of form that earned him his first international call-up and Docklands dominance led them to a 25-19 third set win.
Polonia are renowned for their fighting spirit and this was evident throughout the fourth set. They started brightly with Cuthbert shutting out Glitz and the vociferous home crowd responded by raising the volume. But Docklands also raised their game and a run of deceptive serves from Boris Halatchev put pressure on Polonia's passing unit and with blocks by Eruero and Vincett, Docklands took a 13-9 lead. Polonia's never say die attitude came back to the fore and they were level by 21-21 after two aces in a row by Master. However, Glitz responded with an unstoppable smash down the line which literally knocked the defender off his feet and Docklands eighth league win of the season was sealed with an Eruero block on Polonia veteran Krzys Hykiel.
Afterwards an emotional Vincett paid tribute to his team mates and vowed to be back saying, "I have had some great times with this club and will miss you all. I hope to be back soon and will be keener than ever to help win our first league title, unless you manage to win one without me." Docklands captain Glitz summed up his team's feelings, commenting, "Andy has given so much to this club and will be a hard player to replace. We wish him well while he is away and look forward to his return in a couple of years time".
Docklands end the year on top of the league and now have three weeks off before travelling to Loughborough for their first match of 2006.
Docklands: Vincett 0 kills (1 attempt), Halatchev 2 (7), Masters 6 (14), Inglot 9 (21), Glitz 19 (41), Sliti 1 (8), Eruero 5 (11), Ruh (Libero). Subs not used: Groy, Primus, Blair.
Pinter 7 (27), Lams 0 (0), Andrzej Saller 2 (5), Luhovy 0 (5), Hykiel
2 (3), Cuthbert 3 (4), Masduros 6 (15), Piecka 4 (12), Master 10 (22),
Michas Saller (Libero). Subs not used: Janek Saller.