Other 2008/09 reports

Opponents: London Lynx 1
Competition: National League Division 1
Date: Saturday 13th September 2008
Venue: Bethnal Green SC
Result: W 3-2 (25-21, 25-27, 25-21, 20-25, 15-13)
Headline: Docklands battle to opening day win
Author: Andy Hopper

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London Docklands Volleyball started the National League season with a battling win against local rivals London Lynx 1. After losing three players from his first six of last season, Docklands coach Ian Legrand has been busy recruiting new players and he gave all four of his new signings their debut in this see-saw encounter. He also made two positional changes with Alex Gaitan returning to the role of setter after a stint in the middle and Alexis Blair switching back to outside hitter after three seasons as libero. Blair, making his 150th Docklands appearance, was captaining the side for the first time and it was his run of serves that broke the deadlock at the start of the first set, guiding Docklands into a 10-7 lead. His replacement in the libero shirt, Rafael de Oliveira, was helping him to provide a solid platform for Gaitan to feed his hitters and they were duly putting away the winners. Debutant Adam El Kass was proving to be a useful acquisition as the Lynx blockers struggled to cope with his variety of shots. Docklands were able to close out the set 25-21 with a kill by Adam Phillips.

The second set was a scrappy affair with both sides making unforced errors that didn't allow either side to get into any sort of rhythm. Docklands opened up a three point lead at 19-16 after a short run of serves by Phillips but instead of driving home their advantage they allowed Lynx back in with three consecutive errors. Then with the scores tied at 21-21 came the first controversial moment of the match. Legrand objected to a decision by the first referee and was given a yellow card for his protestations, gifting Lynx a 23-21 lead. Onno Bos, another player making his first appearance for Docklands after moving from Dulwich Knights in the summer, rose to narrow the gap and El Kass followed him up with another kill. The pressure was back on Lynx and handling error by Slim Tlili gave Docklands a point to take a 2-0 lead. Tlili then went back to veteran Ed Ekanem who was playing in his 23rd match against Docklands. He first faced Docklands 14 years ago, representing five different clubs in that time. Now back at Lynx he used all his experience to tie the scores at 24-24. He tried to do the same in the next point but Gaitan shut him out to gain Docklands' second set point. Ekanem saved it again and then a Docklands error gave Lynx their first set point. They didn't need any more invitations as Wahid Hassani punished a lacklustre Docklands attack.

Lynx maintained their momentum to race into a 4-1 lead at the start of the third set. However, Docklands pegged them back and an ace by Phillips tied the set at 6-6. The scores remained tight as the set reached its critical stage at 21-21. Docklands then took advantage of a service error by the dangerous Jalal El Achkar with kills by Jesse Kaptein and El Kass propelling them to the set 25-21.

Lynx's heads were down and Docklands took advantage, storming into a 9-3 lead. A Lynx time out helped stem the flow of Docklands points but they still held a six point lead at 12-6. Then the wheels came off the Docklands bus as they gifted five of the next six points to Lynx. The home side then battled their way to a 22-17 lead with the help of an ace by Antonio Codrington and strong blocking by El Achkar. It was again left to Hassani to finish off the set forcing the match into a deciding fifth set.

Docklands started the brighter with three points by El Kass taking his side into a 3-1 lead. Lynx recovered to tie the scores at 5-5 and then Docklands capitulated, making four consecutive errors. Captain Blair restored some stability to Docklands' play and his kill was followed up by a Gaitan block on El Achkar. A deft attack by Gaitan piled the pressure back on Lynx and then when Bos shut out Codrington the Lynx players erupted convinced that the Docklands player had touched the net. In the resulting melee El Achkar was given the second yellow card of the match giving Docklands a 10-9 lead. El Achkar had a chance to make up for it in the next point but he could only find the net. The sides exchanged points before an El Kass hit off the block gave Docklands a 13-11 lead. An error by Hassani then gave Docklands three match points. El Achkar saved the first one and then El Kass hit the net to leave Docklands with just one match point left. Then a perfect pass by Blair gave Gaitan all his hitting options and he fed Phillips who despatched a thunderous spike to seal the win for Docklands.

Legrand said afterwards, "It may not have been pretty at times but that was an important win. Lynx are always a difficult team to play and this is a tricky venue to get used to. I was pleased with the way we battled back and never gave up. We must tidy up parts of our play but I'm confident we're going in the right direction."

Docklands now have two weeks off until they host KO Cup champions Sheffield at Bacon's College on Saturday 27th September at 2.30pm.

Black Knight: Alex Gaitan

Docklands: Kaptein 13 kills (33 attempts), Phillips 8 (15), Bos 5 (11), Gaitan 3 (7), El Kass 20 (46), Mills 0 (0), Blair 14 (23), Primus 0 (0), de Oliveira (Libero).

Lynx: Tlili 3 (6), Ferro 0 (0), Hassani 13 (25), Chibula 7 (11), Azzoz 0 (0), Ekanem 11 (31), Codrington 7 (12), El Achkar 8 (22), Wong (Libero).

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