Opponents: London Lynx 1 Competition: National League Division 1 Date: Saturday 15th September 2007 Venue: Bethnal Green SC Result: W 3-1 (23-25, 29-27, 25-20, 25-18) Headline: Docklands begin title defence with win Author: Andy Hopper
The National League Division 1 champions, London Docklands Volleyball, started the defence of their crown this weekend with an east London derby against London Lynx 1. Docklands last match at the end of the 2006/07 season was their KO Cup final victory against London Malory. Since then many things have changed for Docklands, highlighted by the fact that of the seven players who finished on court in the final, only two, Alexis Blair and Efe Eruero, were available to coach Ian Legrand for the first match of the 2007/08 season. Departures, retirements and injuries have robbed Docklands of some of their stars from last season's double winning team but the eight available players were keen to make sure the champions were not embarrassed by the newly promoted Lynx side. The Division 2 champions only spent one season down in the second tier after being in the top division for over 20 years. Until Docklands' league victory Lynx were the last team other than Malory to win the men's division 1 title since 1987. That title came in 1998 but Lynx have never really challenged for the championship since. However, they have always been a tricky team to play as Docklands were reminded in the quarter final of last season's KO cup. On that day Docklands came out 3-1 winners on their way to the title but were made to work for their victory.
Both sides began tentatively with neither able to open up a lead early on. Lynx were the first to gain any sort of advantage after a service run by Ben Wilson helped them take a 9-5 lead. Docklands prevented Lynx extending their advantage but could not make any serious in roads until a service run by Eruero. A kill by Danny Primus and a block by Martin Blake contributed two more points as Docklands crept ahead 19-17. However, a Docklands error gifted Lynx a way back into the set which they gleefully took. Lynx's Wahid Hassani was demanding the ball from his setter and he consistently frustrated the Docklands' defence with his repertoire of shots. A block and three kills by Hassani in the last five points of the set gave Lynx a shock first set win 25-23.
However, Docklands did not panic and started the second set with more confidence. Francesco Riginelli was particularly impressive as he carried forward the form he showed on the beach this summer into his indoor game. It was a block by Riginelli on Wilson that forced Lynx coach Lyes Sola into his first time out, his side 16-11 down. Lynx responded by producing two consecutive blocks to narrow Docklands' lead. Docklands managed to recover their sideout game and both sides traded points until Docklands led 23-21. But Lynx were not giving up and again produced two blocks in a row to tie the scores. Eruero powered his way through the Lynx block to gain Docklands' first set point but Lynx continued to frustrate the champions as they managed to save three set points. Then a rare mistake from Riginelli gave Lynx their first set point but he redeemed himself to tie the score again at 27-27. Lynx's setter was then called for a handling fault and Primus then fed Riginelli again for the Italian to take the set 29-27 for Docklands.
This seemed to knock the confidence out of the Lynx players as the next two sets followed a very similar pattern with Docklands able to open up an early lead and coast to reasonably comfortable wins. Riginelli continued to shine and Docklands' middle blockers Blake and Eruero were enjoying some attacking freedom at the net. And after a tentative start Docklands' only debutant Klaus Thummert was finding his feet in the remodelled Docklands line-up. It was his block on Antonio Codrington that sealed the third set for Docklands, 25-20. A run of five serves by Blake broke the deadlock early in the fourth set and strong attacking from Thummert and Riginelli drove Docklands to a 25-18 fourth set win.
That was Docklands' first opening day victory for three years and Legrand said afterwards, "It wasn't pretty but in the end it was effective. We have a number of things to work on but nothing we can't resolve. We were short of match practice and that showed today but we battled well and worked our way out of a couple of tricky situations, which was pleasing."
Docklands' next opponents Guildford International were also promoted from Division 2 last season. They have been on the cusp of the top division for a number of years but after losing 3-0 to Cambridge in their first match this weekend Docklands will hoping to get their second victory of the season next Saturday.
Docklands: Riginelli 20 kills (37 attempts), Blake 5 (8), Thummert 6 (20), Savoia 6 (18), Eruero 8 (15), Primus 1 (4), Blair (Libero). Sub not used: Gaitan.
Bignold 0 (1), Glenville 2 (3), Trodden 1 (4), Ferro 0 (3), Wilson 11
(24), El Achkar 16 (32), Hassani 18 (40), Codrington 6 (17). Sub not used: