Other 2016/17 reports

Opponents: Solent & Team Northumbria
Competition: Super8s
Date: Saturday/Sunday 11th/12th February 2017
Venue: Itchen College & Caius House
Solent Result: W 3-0 (25-18, 25-8, 25-20)
Northumbria Result: L 3-1 (23-25, 25-19, 12-25, 16-25)
Headline: Docklands run hot and cold
Author: Andy Hopper


London Docklands briefly returned to winning ways this weekend before competing well with top of the table Team Northumbria but eventually came out on the wrong side of a 3-1 scoreline. The double header weekend started promisingly when Docklands travelled to Solent with their strongest squad of the season. Andy Hopper's side were bolstered by the return of Raul Sanchez Galan who has rejoined the team after six-months away from volleyball. He helped provide a stable platform in the service receive unit alongside captain Andrew Pink and libero Marcel Sivak, giving Docklands control from the start at Itchen College.

Coached by ex-Docklands player Adam Phillips, Solent have had a torrid season. After gaining promotion back to the Super8s last season they have so far failed to win a match. They have missed their talisman Jacek Szafranski after his horrific cycling accident but Phillips will still admit that even with the Pole, his side would have struggled to make their mark this season. The result on Saturday meant that Solent cannot move out of eighth place and will be relegated back to Division 1 after one year back in the top flight.

Docklands benefitted from a series of unforced errors by Phillips' charges and applied their own pressure from the service line to give Solent's fragile passing unit no chance of getting a foothold in the game. Despite this, Solent were in contention in both sets one and three at the second technical time-out until Docklands took control and comfortably closed out the sets when it mattered. In set two it was all Docklands with a sequence of seven Kieran O'Malley serves helping to set up a 25-8 drubbing, their best set score since October 2012.

So ahead of the tougher fixture against Northumbria on Sunday, Docklands earned a comfortable win, their first since October, without expending too much energy. However, Northumbria also had an easy win on Saturday against Lynx and their form was an ominous sign for Docklands as they warmed up for the first time in their third home venue of the season, Caius House. The hall provided a great setting for a titanic battle in the first two sets before the strength of Northumbria came to the fore and David Goodchild's side ran out winners 3-1.

The first set was a tight affair with only one point separating the two sides at the second technical time-out. The enforced delay briefly interrupted a run of deceptive serves by Northumbria's Matt White which Docklands' passers struggled to control. Docklands suddenly found themselves 21-15 down and seemingly out of the first set. But the home side did not give up and with blocks by Pink and Bruno Lusic backed up by strong net play by Mathieu Ras, Docklands fought their way back to 22-22. The game was back in the balance but Northumbria could rely on captain Seain Cook to make the difference, as his smash and subsequent block closed out the set 25-23.

Docklands took confidence from their first set display and with the momentum behind them they charged into an 8-5 lead in set two. They maintained their advantage to lead 17-13 and managed to keep Northumbria at arms length. Tomek Wysocki produced a string of probing serves and even contributed some defence to help Docklands stretch their lead at 21-15. In the end a kill by Ras closed out the set 25-19 for Docklands and we had a contest.

Unfortunately for Docklands they never got going in either sets three or four with the power and subtly of Cook and American opposite Dan Starkey proving too much to handle. The dynamism of Londonder Darius Setsoafia also came to the fore, particularly from the service line. His run of eight serves took the third set from a close 5-5 to a 13-5 scoreline, leaving no way back for Docklands.

The defeat leaves Docklands on ten points in seventh place knowing that their next two ties against Lynx and Malory are must wins. Docklands' coach Hopper commented, "We again showed how well we can play and that we can compete with all the teams in this league. We just need to do it more consistently. However, I feel that we have some momentum now and we can take this into our big match next weekend against Lynx. Our final league position is still in our hands but we must work hard to earn it".

Black Knight v Solent: Flavien Hias
Black Knight v Northumbria: Raul Sanchez Galan

Docklands MVP v Solent: Andrew Pink
Solent MVP: Joe Waterman

Docklands MVP v Northumbria: Raul Sanchez Galan
Northumbria MVP: Darius Setsoafia

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