Opponents: Wessex BU Competition: Division 1 Date: Saturday 8th December 2012 Venue: Bacon's College Result: W 3-1 (25-20, 20-25, 25-23, 25-19) Headline: Docklands stun league leaders Wessex
London Docklands produced probably their best performance in over three years to inflict a first defeat of the season on high-flying Wessex BU. This was the first time the two sides had meet in almost ten years and Docklands had a slight lead 6-5 in the series. Only two survivors from the last fixture were involved in the latest instalment; Docklands' coaches Andy Hopper and Danny Primus. However, three other Docklands stalwarts from that era (Ian Legrand, Andy Vincett and Alexis Blair) were in the crowd to see an impressive Docklands performance in this top of the table clash.
Following their promotion from Division 2 last season, Wessex have gained the services of Great Britain stars Ben Pipes and Dan Hunter. With the support of some good young home-grown talent and new Kiwi signing Kirk Pitman, the team from Bournemouth had vanquished all before them up until Saturday. This included a cup victory over Super8 team Solent on Wednesday. However, other than that fixture Evangelos Koutouleas' side had not really been challenged so far this season. That all changed at Bacon's College.
Docklands began confidently with a block by Marc Schaepertoens and ace by Mark Baechli giving them the perfect start. But Wessex pegged back the home side as both teams found their rhythm to provide the crowd with some high octane volleyball of the highest quality. A casual observer would have assumed it was a match from the Super8s as several dramatic rallies entertained the spectators. It was Docklands who held a slender advantage at the second technical time-out, 16-14. Docklands' sideout game was strong and with the help of a short run of Baechli serves, Koutouleas was forced to call his first time-out, 16-19 down. Another Baechli ace increased Docklands' cushion and they held on and took the first set 25-20.
Docklands enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges of the second set and led 10-7. But service pressure from Andrew Clayton and a sequence of Docklands' errors helped switch the momentum back Wessex's way. Koutouleas introduced left handed Miguel Espinoza at 14-15 down which enabled Pipes to return to setting duties. Docklands took a while to adjust to Wessex's new formation and when Espinoza returned to the bench his side were 23-18 up and went on to tie the match with a 25-20 second set win.
Wessex carried forward their momentum into set three to lead 4-0 - some clever short serving from Pitman applied subtle pressure to Docklands' passing unit. Wessex continued to dictate proceedings and the triumvirate of Pipes-Hunter-Pitman were dominating Docklands at the net. Hopper brought in Nicolò d'Elia and after a slow start he began to control play with his set distribution keeping the Wessex block guessing. At one stage Wessex were 17-8 ahead and seemingly on their way to an easy third set win. However, after a five-serve series from d'Elia, Docklands were back in with a chance and Wessex didn't have another gear to respond to the deluge coming their way from Docklands. The Espinoza switch back-fired this time with Wessex four points up when he entered the court but then set point down at 23-24 when he departed. Docklands took their one chance to take an unlikely lead 2-1.
That doubled the number of sets Wessex had lost all season and clearly hit them hard as Docklands raced into a 5-1 lead in set four with the majority of Docklands' points coming from Wessex errors. But the league leaders recovered from 12-7 down to within a point, forcing Hopper to call a time-out. Docklands re-established their sideout game and from that point on Wessex failed to score a point on their serve. The build up of pressure, the extent of which Wessex had not experienced so far this season, started to tell on their relatively young side. Docklands were dominating the attack through the middle whilst the Docklands' blockers were putting up wall after wall that Wessex struggled to breach. In the end, Docklands sealed the match with a 25-19 fourth set win.
The last time Docklands won the title in the 2nd tier (2000-01 season), they went unbeaten in a 16-game season and only dropped five sets. Up until Saturday it looked as though Wessex would at least match that achievement. Saturday's result didn't make that much difference to the league table with Wessex remaining on top on sets difference. At the half way stage of the season it means that all seven remaining fixtures will be crucial for both sides and it could all come down to the very last match of the regular season when Docklands travel to Wessex in April.
Hopper commented after the match, "This has been a real team effort with everyone playing their part either on the court, supporting during the game or in training. Everyone worked hard for this result and we executed our game plan very effectively. I don't expect Wessex to lose another game until we play them again, so it's down to us to match that run and maintain our own level in every game".
now have a break of over a month before they face Danes Watford at Bacon's
College on 12th January. As Danes are the only team to beat Docklands
in the league, the east London side will not be taking their opponents
lightly and will look to start 2013 with a bang.
Black Knight: Mark Baechli
Docklands MVP: Slawek Omlyski
Wessex MVP: Ben Pipes