Opponents: Danes Watford & Newcastle Staffs Competition: Division 1 Date: Saturday/Sunday 7/8th December 2013 Venue: Haverstock School & Bacon's College Danes Result: W 3-1 (25-18, 22-25, 25-16, 25-12) Staffs Result: W 3-0 (25-16, 25-13, 25-13) Headline: Danes and Staffs put to the sword by dominant Docklands
London Docklands ended 2013 with two huge wins against their main rivals in National League Division 1. Ercüment Karakoç's side remain unbeaten in the league and are now just one point off the top of the table. There's still a long way to go but Docklands have complete control over the destination of this season's title.
They first faced Danes Watford on Saturday. Karakoç had almost a full squad to pick from and welcomed back captain Mark Baechli into the starting six. It was Baechli who broke the back of the first set with a run of eight serves to give Docklands an 11-4 lead. It all seemed too easy for Docklands but Danes were not giving up. Driven on by ex-England international Steve Fee, Danes gathered some confidence for the second set. Docklands eventually took the set 25-18 but all momentum was with the visitors.
Danes' middle attackers started to get into the game and as Docklands' form dropped, the more Danes lifted their game. They led 16-12 at the second technical time-out and maintained their lead to take the set 25-22 with a kill by middle hitter Andrew Tucker.
The pressure was back on Docklands and the result back in the balance. Karakoç demanded more and his team responded. Slawek Omlyski started to out range his opposite number and Raul Sanchez Galan stepped up to drive Docklands into a 9-4 lead. Omlyski then went on an unstoppable run of serves that took the set away from Danes. What was already a heated encounter blow up as frustrations increased. Once both teams channelled their aggression into their play, the crowd were treated to some good quality volleyball and exciting rallies. Docklands closed out the set 25-16 with the help of a Danes' serving error.
This time the momentum was all with Docklands and after leading 8-5 another run of Baechli serves gave Docklands an eight-point cushion that were not going to relinquish. The defence of Docklands' libero Matteo Cottignoli was increasing Danes' frustration and he even got in on the attacking front - a point that was hotly disputed by Danes long after the final rally. Baechli came back to serve to torment the Danes' passing unit again and he set-up match point. He subsequently put his next serve wide but Danes served in the net again to give Docklands the set 25-12.
Only half the job was done for Docklands with the visit of Newcastle Staffs on Sunday. The match was back at Bacon's College for the only time this season and Docklands enjoyed returning to Fortress Bacon's. Staffs had won a pulsating five-set match with Lynx 2 on Saturday so maybe they were still feeling the affect of that marathon. They were also missing captain Will Roberts but even his experience would have struggled to cope with the onslaught Docklands' middle attackers brought on the visitors.
In sets one and three Docklands led 8-2 at the first technical time-out. In the second set they held an 8-1 advantage and went on to lead 16-4 at the second fixed stoppage. Yavor Popov and Omlyski were unstoppable, providing 22 points between them. In the middle of the second set, Popov won four points in a row. All of Docklands' hitters got in on the act with Piotr Majorkowski producing his best display in a Docklands shirt.
Setter Marc Schaepertoens said afterwards, "The Popov ram knocked down the 'Castle gate, brought down the front wall and demolished the Keep".
It was easily Docklands best performance of the season and it sees them end the calendar year on a high. However, on the same weekend last year they defeated eventual champions Wessex but their post-Christmas form faltered after they picked up a couple of injuries to key players. Docklands must start 2014 as they finished to keep the pressure on their rivals.
Danes Black Knight: Slawek Omlyski
Staffs Black Knight: Yavor Popov
Docklands MVP v Danes: Raul Sanchez Galan
Danes MVP: Mike Pagalos
Docklands MVP v Staffs: Yavor Popov
Staffs MVP: Rich James