Opponents: CBL Polonia London Competition: Super8s Date: Saturday 7th March 2015 Venue: Haverstock School Result: W 3-2 (30-28, 25-23, 13-25, 21-25, 15-7) Headline: Docklands finally win in 5 sets to seal 4th place Author: Andy Hopper
After losing their previous four five-set encounters, London Docklands Volleyball finally managed to win a deciding fifth set. And in the final regular match of the season against CBL Polonia London, Docklands couldn't have picked a better time to clinch the shoot out to 15 points. With it, they secured a home quarter final in the play-offs and, with that match also against Polonia, the psychological advantage over their London rivals. For now, Docklands can claim to be the best men's team in London after surviving the battle of London on the final weekend of the season and finishing ahead of the other three London Super8s teams. Elsewhere, Malory Eagles came back from 10-5 down in the fifth set to inflict seventh place on London Lynx for the second season in a row.
After three 3-0 victories in a row, Docklands coach Ercüment Karakoç had to slightly reshuffle his side as Robin Miedzybrodzki failed a late fitness test. However, Karakoç had the luxury of calling on Olympian Andrew Pink who seamlessly slotted into the first six and produced his best display of the season. It was a run of five Pink serves that broke the deadlock at the start of set one, helping his side take a 10-4 lead. But Vangelis Koutouleas' team slowly fought their way back into the set and were level by 21-21. Docklands managed to hold the lead to gain the first set point at 24-23. But two quick Polonia points swung the advantage back the visitors' way. Docklands survived three set points with good work at the net by Mathieu Ras and Raul Sanchez Galan. A strong serve by Sanchez Galan then gave Docklands a swing which Pink duly put away to bring up Docklands' second set point at 29-28. A hitting error by Polonia, called in by the line judge but overruled by the first referee, gave Docklands the set.
Polonia had the better of the early exchanges in set two, taking a 7-3 lead. But Docklands slowly chipped away at Polonia's lead and at the end of a run of five Piotr Majorkowski serves, the scores were level at 13-13. The momentum was all with Docklands and they took control to lead 21-17. Again, Polonia didn't give up and gradually closed the gap, forcing Karakoç to call a time-out at 24-23 up. The break helped steady Docklands' ship and Sanchez Galan rose to kill the ball and take his side 2-0 up.
The visitors came out fighting in set three with Bartosz Kisielewicz despatching a series of unreturnable serves to take a 6-0 lead. Coming back from that sort of deficit is never easy and despite closing the gap to 10-7 down Docklands were unable to rescue the set after another run of serves by Robert Rapi. Karakoç introduced Kirk Pitman and debutant Tomasz Wysocki to try and turn things around and despite some exceptional defence from libero Matteo Cottignoli, in the end a Polonia block sealed a 25-13 third set win.
Earlier in the season, Polonia had come back to win from 2-0 down against Docklands and Karakoç's men were clearly keen to avoid that fate again. The home side enjoyed a strong start to set four and led 8-6 at the first technical time-out. However, two more Kisielewicz aces helped Polonia take the lead and by the second enforced pause they were ahead 16-14. The set was anyone's and two aces by Kieran O'Malley saw the set swing back to Docklands, forcing Koutouleas to call a time-out 18-17 down. His words seemed to have the desired affect as Polonia took control again after some clever serving by Andrzej Skorski. It was left to Skorski to finish it off with a smash cross court to take the fourth set 25-21.
Docklands' largest crowd of the season were on the edge of their seats and the loud and enthusiastic travelling supporters were willing their team to repeat their comeback victory. At 5-4 to Docklands the set was finely balanced but an ace by Ras gave his side a boost and three serves later the home side were 9-4 up and in complete control. Two more aces by Pink stretched the lead to 12-5 and a smash off the block by O'Malley brought up match point. Polonia saved the first one but a serving error, their fourth of the set, gave Docklands the set 15-7, and the match 3-2.
Karakoç was unsurprisingly pleased afterwards, commenting, "Considering the position we were in six weeks ago, this is an amazing result and I'm really proud of the boys. We played some great stuff today and defended the best we have done all season. We're playing our best volleyball of the season at exactly the right time and we can have a real go in the play-offs".
will host Polonia again on the weekend of 21st/22nd March in a one-off
match to earn the right to play Team Northumbria in the play-off semi
Black Knight: Andrew Pink
Docklands MVP: Mark Baechli
Polonia MVP: Robert Rapi