Opponents: London Malory Competition: National KO Cup Semi Final Date: Saturday 21st April 2007 Venue: EIS Sheffield Result: W 3-1 (17-25, 25-22, 25-20, 29-27) Headline: Double delight for Docklands Author: Andy Hopper
London Docklands Volleyball have completed their most successful season ever with a hard fought win over their greatest rivals London Malory in the National KO Cup final. After securing their first ever Division 1 title three weeks ago Docklands now have their first ever double. Docklands had started the match as the under dogs after Malory had inflicted Docklands' first defeat in 17 matches in the final league match on the previous weekend. Malory had also drafted in the services of ex-England and GB middle blocker Marcus Russell, with his 6 foot 11 inch frame forming a formidable presence at the net.
The match was a repeat of last year's final in which Malory gained a convincing 3-0 win. Although Docklands got off to a promising start demonstrated by Martin Blake's block on Russell that took his side 5-2 up, Malory's greater experience of the big occasion showed through as they threatened to replicate last year's result in the first set. Strong blocking and serving by Malory prevented Docklands from getting into their own rhythm and the set quickly ran away from the east London side. Malory eventually took the set 25-17 with a smash from England international Steve Fee.
Towards the end of set one Docklands coach Ian Legrand had introduced Nik Ruh into the setting role and he continued with this strategy in the second set. He also brought in Efe Eruero for Blake to mix up his net attack and defence. However, it was Docklands' stars Boris Halatchev and Albrecht Glitz who got his side off to the best possible start. Glitz, playing in probably his last ever Docklands match, scored an ace and Halatchev shut out Danny Weemes to go 3-1 up. It then became the Dejan Miladinovic show as he blocked Fee and scored two further points to take Docklands 9-4 up. Docklands were finally in the match and showing the large crowd the form that won them their league title. However, a combination of Docklands relaxing too much and Malory being spurred on by the challenge, brought Malory back into the set. Blocks by Fee and Richard Dobell, backed up by some high hitting from Weemes and Dami Bakare turned the set around as Malory took a 16-14 lead. But then a block by Mohammed Sliti on Bakare seemed to spark Docklands back into life as a run of three further points took them 18-16 up, forcing Malory coach Jefferson Williams to take his first time out of the match. Williams also introduced the experienced Morph Bowes for Bakare. However, a few points later it was a block by Miladinovic on Bowes that took Docklands four points clear at 22-18. Malory managed to peg back Docklands but could not prevent them gaining their first set point at 24-21 with a Miladinovic kill. Ex-Docklands player Weemes sided out for his new team but Docklands took the set 25-22 after a shocking service error by Alex Bialokoz.
Docklands were now playing with confidence and with a stable platform provided mainly by libero Alexis Blair, Ruh was able to run his offence as he wished. Set three started very evenly as both sides exchanged blows early on. Neither side could boast any sort of a lead until two consecutive Weemes' errors took Docklands to 8-6 at the first technical time out. Glitz then capitalised on some more Malory errors before a clinical block by Halatchev on Russell took Docklands 13-8 up. Although some slack Docklands play reduced their lead slightly they managed to re-establish their sideout game and with Miladinovic, Sliti and Glitz showing off their variety of shots Docklands took the set 25-20 and with it a 2-1 lead.
Malory started the fourth set in determined fashion, keen to show that they would not give up their KO Cup crown without a fight. They enjoyed the better of the early exchanges as two Russell blocks on Miladinovic helped Malory take a 9-5 lead. However, some dogged Docklands play stopped Malory's lead from growing as the score reached 15-11. Then after Malory were disappointed that Bowes was penalised for a handling error Sliti embarked on a run of five serves that helped Docklands get back into the set. The pressure he put on the Malory passing unit helped Docklands defend Malory's attacks and Glitz duly put away the sets he was presented with. Halatchev then blocked Bowes to take Docklands into the lead for the first time in the set at 16-15. The match then entered its tensest phase as the lead switched sides but only by one point. The momentum swung Docklands' way when Bowes was adjudged to have hit the ball out and while Malory still seethed at this decision Miladinovic rose to put the ball away again and take Docklands 21-20 up. Bowes redeemed himself in the next point but an error by Russell gifted the lead back to Docklands. Dobell went back to Russell for his next set but Eruero was waiting for him as his block took Docklands 23-21 up. The atmosphere was anxious and with the title in touching distance it seemed to get to Docklands as two errors gave Malory a way back. But Miladinovic recovered to gain Docklands their first match point at 24-23. Dobell sought out Russell again but his shot was picked up by Blair off his foot and the ball looped back onto Malory's side. The crowd held their breath as it seemed that the ball would drop into the vacant back court but unfortunately for Docklands' supporters it bounced just long. Glitz and Miladinovic then created three more match points for Docklands only for Malory to respond in customary resolute style. With the scores tied at 27-27 Glitz produced another thunderous hit off the Malory block into the crowd that took him back to serve. Hollywood script writers could not have done a better job as with his last action as a Docklands player he scored an ace to send his team and supporters into rapturous celebrations.
After the celebrations had died down captain Halatchev said, "This was a fantastic team performance. It was great that we never gave up and showed that we still believed we could win. The double is a massive thing for us and I'm really proud of the boys". Legrand added, "Even though we lost the first set I still thought we had it in us to win. We probably got more out of the match last week as we could scout their new formation. Everyone rose to the occasion and the two titles are a great reward for all our hard work."
This is the first time in nine years that Malory have failed to win any silverware and Docklands achievement should not be under estimated. They will face a tough challenge to defend their two titles with a number of players leaving the club. However, the core of Legrand's team will be keen to prove that this season was not a one-off and he is sure to be actively recruiting new players.
Docklands: Miladinovic 26 kills (42 attempts), Halatchev 2 (5), Riginelli 0 (0), Blake 0 (3), Glitz 16 (39), Ruh 0 (0), Sliti 8 (21), Eruero 0 (1), Primus 0 (0), Blair (Libero). Sub not used: Masters.
Russell 7 (17), Fee 5 (13), Bowes 7 (20), Bakare 4 (12), Carr 0 (0), Dobell
0 (1), Bialokoz 8 (11), Weemes 13 (30), Hori 0 (0), Martindale (Libero).
Subs not used: Burns, Stolberg.
Black Knight: Alexis Blair