Other 2007/08 reports

Opponents: Sheffield
Competition: National League Division 1
Date: Saturday 29th September 2007
Venue: Bacon's College
Result: W 3-0 (25-22, 25-22, 25-23)
Headline: Docklands' debutants shine 
Author: Andy Hopper

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London Docklands Volleyball have consolidated their place at the top of the Division 1 table with a powerful performance against Sheffield. After two relatively easy victories against the two sides promoted from Division 2 last season, Docklands knew that the young side from Sheffield would give them their sternest test so far. The east London side started with debutants Nathan French and Rafael Dürr. Coach Ian Legrand was also forced to swap Enrico Savoia to the Libero position and against the varied serving ability of Sheffield, Savoia did not let his coach down. However, it was French and Dürr who caught the eye in a contest that included some thunderous attacks from both sides.

The match started very evenly with both sides exchanging points as Docklands' Dürr and Francesco Riginelli got straight into the game. However, it was Sheffield's returning captain Andy Sinclair who made the greatest impact early on. Sinclair spent three years playing professionally in Sweden and his leadership will be key in Sheffield's expected title bid. It was his kill and service ace that saw Sheffield edge ahead at 6-3. However, two consecutive Sheffield errors gave Docklands an easy way back and a precise service ace by Dürr saw the scores tied by 9-9. The score remained tight as both sides turned up the heat with some powerful plays. French then stepped up to give Docklands two consecutive points and as the pressure mounted on the visitors a hitting error in the next point saw Docklands go 21-19 up. Docklands then demonstrated their greater experience as they sided out to seal the set 25-22, Efe Eruero despatching the final kill against his old club.

Sheffield coach Keith Trenam switched his side's rotation, hoping to benefit from different match ups in the second set. If this was his hope it did not come to fruition until two blocks in a row by Tom Ward on French saw Sheffield go 11-8 up. Legrand took a time out to try and slow down Sheffield's momentum. An Eruero kill stemmed the flow of Sheffield points but kills by Sinclair and Joel Miller stretched their lead to four. Sheffield enjoyed their lead until two consecutive errors followed by a clever Riginelli hit saw Docklands back in the set at 17-16. Another three point Docklands run saw the lead switch to the home side. Then a block by French on Miller set up Dockands' first set point and Dürr completed the comeback with an ace to seal the set 25-22.

Docklands carried forward their momentum to take an early 4-1 lead in the third set. Sheffield pegged back Docklands but Dürr produced a kill and a block in quick succession to take Docklands back ahead at 13-11. Docklands' lead was stretched by a French service ace and as Trenam took his final time out at 21-17 down it seemed that the match was over. However, Sinclair sparked a Sheffield comeback and after Miller shut out Dürr, Sheffield were back on level terms, 21-21. Sinclair put his fourth serve wide but Dürr could only find the net with his attempt in the next point. However, in a similar way to the first two sets Docklands were able to turn it on when it mattered as kills by French and Eruero took Docklands to 24-22. Miller saved the first match point but Danny Primus then fed man of the match French who hit off a despairing Sheffield block to seal Docklands' 3-0 victory.

Afterwards, Legrand was understandably happy with his side's performance, "We knew that Sheffield would be strong today and they are still one of my tips for the title. But we produced our best volleyball of the season so far and everyone played their part. We more than matched them in a number of areas of the game and showed how to finish off sets when it mattered". The weekend saw defeats for Docklands' London rivals Malory and Polonia. This means that Docklands' next match sees them take on the only other unbeaten team, Warwick Riga. Another one of Legrand's tips for the title, Riga will also give Docklands a tough examination as they strive to defend their title.

Before Docklands' win, Swiss Cottage Ladies faced 2005/06 double winners City of Wolverhampton. Despite starting strongly, Swiss Cottage went down 3-1 in their first home match at Bacon's College. However, coach Danny Primus will take heart from his side's performance and will hope they can get back on track when they travel to Warwick on the same day as Docklands in two weeks time.

Black Knight: Nathan French

Docklands: Riginelli 12 kills (23 attempts), French 9 (18), Blake 1 (5), Thummert 0 (0), Dürr 11 (22), Gaitan 0 (0), Eruero 5 (9), Primus 1 (1), Savoia (Libero). Subs not used: Kaptein, Phillips.

Sheffield: Robertson 1 (7), Sinclair 11 (20), Bragg 0 (1), Davies 0 (0), O'Malley 0 (0), Clayden 4 (5), Miller 12 (18), Ward 4 (14), Hignett 0 (1), Mousley (Libero).

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