Other 2009/10 reports

Opponents: Sheffield
Competition: National League Division 1
Date: Saturday 26th September 2009
Venue: Bacon's College, Rotherhithe
Result: W 3-0 (25-15, 25-22, 25-21)
Headline: A beautiful debut for Di Bella
Author: Andy Hopper



London Docklands Volleyball produced an emphatic win against the current league and cup champions Sheffield on Saturday. The 3-0 victory was even more impressive given the fact that this was only Sheffield's second defeat in the league for 18 months. Docklands' performance was driven by debutant Daniele Di Bella, replacing setter Alex Chevau who was unavailable. Di Bella linked well with all his hitters especially fellow Italian Riccardo Senatore. Senatore was part of a dominant Docklands' outside attack, with Mohammed Sliti and Raf Dürr also in unstoppable form.

After going through last season with only one defeat Sheffield had been hoping to continue their dominance of English volleyball's competitions. But with the departure of Great Britain setter Keiran O'Malley to play professionally in Belgium, Sheffield coach Keith Trenam has been forced to rebuild his side around two young setters. Anthony Hignett started in the playmaking role but as Docklands stormed to a first set victory Trenam introduced his new Great Britain setter Jim Miller. Strong serving and disciplined attacking play by Docklands had put huge pressure on Sheffield's young side and they couldn't do anything to prevent a 25-15 first set loss.

Docklands coach Andy Hopper kept faith with his first six but demanded that they didn't let the high standards of the first set slip. Thankfully for the home crowd Docklands maintained their performance and helped by aces from Sliti and Senatore they took a 15-9 lead. Sheffield weren't going down without a fight and kills by an impressive Callum Green dragged his side back into the set. Docklands started to show their fighting spirit and after two dramatic pick ups by libero Matteo Cottignoli, Docklands could boast a six point lead again at 20-14. Blocks by Sliti and Boris Halatchev maintained their lead and another block by Dürr brought up Docklands' first set point. Sheffield managed to save three set points but a powerful second touch kill by Di Bella sealed the set at 25-22.

Sheffield had not lost a league fixture 3-0 since October 2007 and at the start of set three they had to try and maintain this record without their captain Andy Sinclair. Docklands continued to pile the pressure on Sheffield's passing unit which put even more onus on Miller to provide a good service to his hitters. Although Sheffield kept tabs on Docklands until 8-8, a kill by Senatore and a block and ace by Dürr took Docklands three points up. However, an ace by Matt Howe and a block on Senatore forced Hopper to call a time out with his side only one point up at 17-16. Halatchev then forced the ball through the Sheffield block and a thunderous kill by Dürr seemed to knock the confidence out of the visitors, as Docklands regained their advantage. Although Sheffield rediscovered their sideout game, Sliti and Dürr kept on responding and it was left to Sliti to produce the final blow as Docklands ran out winners 25-21.

Afterwards, Hopper said, "I couldn't have asked for much more from the players. They executed our game plan magnificently and really stood up to the challenge of playing the league champions. Our main challenge now is maintain this level for the rest of the season."

The win lifted Docklands up to second in the early season table. They next face newly promoted Middlesbrough College in the first leg of a tough away double header in two weeks time - the second match on the Sunday is the return fixture against Sheffield.

Docklands: Dürr 9 kills (20 attempts), Halatchev 2 (4), Senatore 9 (16), Blake 6 (9), Sliti 14 (27), Di Bella 1 (7), Cottignoli (Libero). Subs not used: Apostolov, Davies, Schaepreteons, Blair, Christoforidis.

Sheffield: Miller 0 (2), Kendray 4 (8), Sinclair 4 (11), Green 12 (24), Howe 7 (22), Kimber 0 (0), Clayden 3 (11), Hignett 0 (1), Mintoft 0 (1), Baker (Libero).

Black Knight: Daniele Di Bella

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