Other 2008/09 reports

Opponents: Reading
Competition: National League Division 1
Date: Sunday 30th November 2008
Venue: Reading Uni Sportspark
Result: 3-1 Win (25-20, 18-25, 25-17, 25-19)
Headline: Blair inspires Docklands to crucial win
Author: Andy Hopper


London Docklands Volleyball returned to winning ways again to lift themselves out of the relegation zone in national league division 1. In a proverbial six-pointer Docklands battled their way through to a crucial 3-1 win away to Reading to leap frog the team from Berkshire into eighth place.

Docklands coach Ian Legrand had a small squad to choose from after injuries and work commitments reduced his squad to just eight players. However, of his regular first seven only Riccardo Senatore, Docklands third libero this season, was different and Docklands began the match confident of a win. But it couldn't have started much worse for Docklands as Reading burst into a 5-0 lead with the help of two blocks by Ioannis Manolakis on Matt Mills. A Boris Halatchev kill stopped the run but a combination of Docklands' errors and varied Reading attacking saw Docklands go 9-3 down. Captain Alexis Blair then produced a powerful kill down the line to send Onno Bos back to serve. He went on an amazing run of nine serves to dramatically turn the set back in Docklands' favour. Blair continued to produce point after point and as the pressure built on Reading's hitters they made more and more errors. A block by Blair on Tomek Swierczek forced Reading to take their first time out, now 9-11 down. After Reading had sided out it was then the turn of Wayne Davies to turn up the heat on Reading's fragile passing unit. Aided by two Halatchev blocks Docklands were 17-10 up by the time Davies put his last serve long. Docklands were in control but were also still prone to giving up clusters of points. They struggled to cope with the serving of Dimitris Balagiannis and an ace by him saw his side back to within three points at 15-18. A kill by Mills restored order but two consecutive points by Swierczek threatened Docklands again, their lead now just 20-18. However, Docklands man of the match Blair stepped up again, smashing two points and blocked Swierczek to take his side 24-19 up and their way to a 25-20 first set win.

Up until this match Reading had failed to win a set at home all season but this was about to change. Docklands again gave up an early cluster of points, this time during a series of clever serves by Manolakis. Docklands were quickly 10-4 down and this time they could not find a way back. Legrand brought on the experienced Mohammed Sliti towards the end of the set but by then it was already over. It was all square after Reading's 25-18 win.

Legrand stuck with Sliti at the start of the third set but again it was Bos who made the difference, producing another strong serving run. Blair was on fire and Reading's defence could not stop him killing balls at every angle. Davies was also having a good serving game and by the time his first run had ended Docklands were 14-6 up and in command. Blocks by Halatchev and Blair kept the pressure on Reading as Docklands coasted to a 25-17 third set win.

Docklands were determined not to be involved in a deciding fifth set but Reading had other ideas. A block on Davies was followed by an ace by Swierczek and Docklands found themselves 8-4 down. Legrand called a time out and Blair then produced another hat-trick of points to pull his side back into the set. Neither side was backing down and some long rallies ensued as the set approached its critical point with the scores tied at 15-15. Then a kill by Halatchev was followed up by a Davies block and Docklands were suddenly up for the first time in the set. It was then Sliti's turn to show off his skills. He defended an attack by Swierczek back over the net which Balagiannis foolishly let drop in. Sliti then made him pay with a clever shot over the Reading block. Just when Balagiannis thought it couldn't get any worse Sliti rose to shut him out to take Docklands 22-17 up. It was fittingly left to Blair to finish off the match with this 22nd kill sealing a 25-19 fourth set win.

This win ended Docklands worst league run for over eight years. Legrand said afterwards, "It may not have been pretty at times but that's not important. We showed some good spirit throughout the match and fought for each other. We'll certainly need some more of this spirit in our last two matches of the year." Docklands can now look forward to a clash with old foes Malory next weekend at Bacon's College.

Black Knight: Alexis Blair

Docklands: Davies 10 kills (41 attempts), Blair 22 (34), Halatchev 5 (8), Mills 3 (13), Bos 2 (5), Gaitan 5 (10), Sliti 6 (17), Senatore (Libero).

Reading: Manolakis 1 (4), Jones 2 (10), Yang 0 (0), Horman 0 (0), Swierczek 15 (35), Balagiannis 10 (48), Mezzi 4 (19), Paskins 2 (10), Siwek (Libero).

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