Opponents: London Malory
London Docklands Volleyball kept their National League Division 1 title hopes alive with a dramatic five set victory over west London rivals Malory. Docklands still need Malory to lose at least once more in their last four matches but a battling Docklands performance has helped ensure the pressure is back on the current title holders.
Malory had enjoyed victory over Docklands in their last four encounters but the east London side started the match in confident mood after an impressive run of results in the league and cup. This was also the first time that Malory had faced Docklands' new Serbian signing Dejan Miladinovic. Malory struggled to cope with his power and range and he would ultimately pick-up his first Black Knight award as Docklands' man of the match. He introduced himself to Malory and the crowd with an impressive hit down the line in the second point of the match. He then produced a service ace in a short run of serves that saw Docklands go 7-4 up. But Malory slowly came back into the set helped by a lucky ace off the net by ex-Docklands player Aaron Stolberg. Both sides appeared to be nervous and some unforced errors started to inter-cut the otherwise powerful display of volleyball on offer to the boisterous crowd. Docklands opened up a slender two point lead at 19-17 but an error and a block on Miladinovic by Richard Dobell tied the scores at 20-20, forcing coach Ian Legrand to call his first time out. Immediately after the stoppage two consecutive Miladinovic kills gave Docklands back their advantage and they were able to sideout their way to the first set with a Boris Halatchev kill securing a 25-23 win.
Both teams had periods of control in set two as the lead swung between each team. However, neither side was able to pull away by more than two points until an ace by Albrecht Glitz saw Docklands lead 22-19. But two Docklands errors and two kills by Joe Mildred took Malory into a 23-22 lead. Legrand tried to steady the Docklands ship in a time out. Miladinovic tied the scores in the next point but his error then gave Malory their first set point. Dobell squandered it with a service error but Mildred smashed his way through the Docklands block to make it 25-24. Then Mark Brown produced his first block of the match to shut out Miladinovic and tie the match at one set all.
Docklands seemed to be disheartened by this defeat and Malory enjoyed the better of the early exchanges in the third set, leading 8-5 and subsequently 16-13. Legrand called a time out and demanded more discipline from his charges. This he got as Miladinovic had a run of six serves putting pressure on the Malory passing unit. Halatchev punished an over pass and Neil Masters put away a spike off the Malory block after Nik Ruh had made a stunning pick-up off a Mildred hit. Then Halatchev blocked Stolberg to take Docklands 19-16 up. Miladinovic then served out but a block by Ruh on Morph Bowes effectively put paid to Malory's challenge and Docklands cruised to the set 25-18.
Docklands set out to dominate Malory at the start of the fourth set and with kills from Masters and Glitz and a block by Efe Eruero they led 6-3. Stolberg narrowed the gap and then a disputed refereeing decision meant that instead of being 7-4 up Docklands' lead was only 6-5 and the momentum had swung back Malory's way. Malory took their chance and with two consecutive blocks on Miladinovic they led 8-6. Kills from Masters and Glitz tied the scores and then both teams traded points as neither side was able to open up any sort of lead. A kill by Eruero and a Malory error saw Docklands go 18-16 ahead but two Docklands errors in a row gifted Malory a way back into the set. Both sides traded blows until two points from Bowes broke the deadlock and Malory were able sideout the set and take the match into a deciding final set.
Malory's "first seven" could boast a total of 376 international caps and used all their experience to make the better start in the fifth set as a Dobell block on Masters gave them a lead at 5-3. But an error from Bowes and service pressure from Eruero helped turn it around for Docklands and they led 8-6 when the teams changed ends. Miladinovic stretched the lead to three points but after Andy Carr and Mildred scored consecutive points Docklands needed a Ruh block on Mildred to maintain their lead at 10-8. After the teams had exchanged points an ace from Ruh put Docklands in the box seat, 13-11 up. However, after a service error Malory levelled the scores with a Mildred kill forcing Legrand to take his final time out of the match. Glitz put away a smash to give Docklands their first match point but then their captain blasted his serve wide. Miladinovic gave Docklands another chance but Masters went just wide. Miladinovic then set-up Docklands' final opportunity, taken by Halatchev with a block on Carr which sent the Docklands players and supporters into delirious celebrations.
Legrand was understandably pleased with the win, saying afterwards, "We had to dig deep for this win and no one player really stood out in a good team performance. We needed to win this to keep the pressure on Malory and all we can do now is win our remaining matches and hope someone else helps us out." Docklands Libero Alexis Blair had a solid match and observed, "We didn't really play our best match skill wise but we proved that we have the belief and the mental ability to tough it out when things aren't going our way." Malory coach Jefferson Williams was magnanimous in defeat and admitted, "We had hoped to finish if off today but Docklands played well. However, it was good that we picked up two sets and we should be OK."
This win and results elsewhere mean that Docklands are guaranteed at least second place but they will look to finish off their league season with two home victories against Warwick Riga and City of Bristol to make sure they can benefit from any Malory slip ups.
now turn their attention back to the London Challenge Trophy when they
face White Eagles on Thursday 2nd March. A win should be enough to guarantee
them a place in the semi finals of this new competition.
Docklands: Miladinovic 26 kills (55 attempts), Halatchev 7 (9), Masters 8 (20), Porter 0 (1), Glitz 18 (46), Ruh 1 (4), Primus 0 (0), Eruero 4 (8), Blair (Libero). Subs not used: Kaptein, Blake, Groy.
Brown 6 (11), Bowes 19 (42), Carr 2 (14), Dobell 1 (2), Mildred 15 (35),
Stolberg 5 (14), Bialokoz 6 (15), Williams 0 (0), Martindale (Libero).
Subs not used: Rijvers, Fee, Omoshebi.