Blaze started their 2014-5 campaign on Saturday 25th October playing away in Coventry vs Riga and followed this up with a home fixture vs Wessex Mens II.
Front Row: Stuart Coussins, Dan Northfield, Mahlon King, Rees Warren, Kieran Good, Matthew Ketley (missing)
Standing: Darren Lewis (Coach), Michael Palago, Laurence Russell, Cameron Rhodes, Sam Thompson, Luke French, Andy Saward (Captain), Joe Houlihan
Coventry Riga had been relegated from Super 8 last season and had had a slow start to 2014-5 with 2 losses. However this was Blaze’s first competitive outing and there were numerous new players to gel together.
The match ultimately ended in defeat 3-2 (15-13 in the 5th) for Blaze and carried a great deal of frustration. Whilst the lads played well in parts – indeed well enough to win the total points tally 109 -101 we made too many unforced errors at important times to maintain pressure throughout the match. We must now look forward to the return fixture.
Congratulations to Laurence in being named MVP
Whilst the loss against Riga felt like a game we should have won the match against Wessex turned out to be quite the opposite. Wessex had won their first 4 games in the league and were the “in form” team. The previous day they dispatched Tendring 1-3, a team that had nearly qualified for super 8 last season.
Sam started the match serving some strong penetrating serves and helped create a 8-4 lead. Blaze were benefitting from a solid passing unit and winning points across all areas of the net after the first round of serving Sam came back to the line 13-8 up. Andy Saward then took up the serving dominance taking Blaze to an incredible 25-10 score. Blaze showed real penetration from the service line and attack putting Wessex under sustained pressure. Joe Houlihan and Laurence featured highly, claiming multiple kill shots.
Wessex stepped back on court in Set 2 determined to take the game to Blaze. They cut out their errors and improved the quality of their setting and hitting. Wessex were 6-11 up and showing why they were the league leaders. However, Laurence then stepped up with 2 cross court winners. Sam then came back to the sevice line once again and applied pressure to the Wessex passing unit. Whilst Sam was intrumental in helping turn the score around to 16-12, the whole team was clinical in executing the game plan and keeping Wessex under pressure. Whilst Wessex then fought back strongly to draw level at 20-20, two consecutive clean winning hits from Luke and Andy ensured we took the set 26-24 for a 2-0 lead.
At 2-0 up Blaze was in a very good place but Set 3 started badly with performance levels dropping. We were 3-10 down before Luke fired in some penetrating serves including two aces and forced a Wessex time out at 8-10. Some great blocking kept Blaze in the set to 18-18 against a rejuvenuated Wessex. Wessex were however able to maintain their high level and eventually run out Set 3 20-25 winners.
Set 4 started as Set 1 did with Sam setting the tone with strong serving and forcing Wessex on the back foot early on. An 8-6 lead extended to 16-10 following, once again, excellent defensive play by Blaze. Blaze looked unbeatable at this point and eased the lead quickly to 20-12 as Wessex increased their number of errors. A mini revival from Wessex was stopped by an impressive block by Sam. Blaze took the last set 25-17.
Sam took MVP hours but all the team played their part in achieving an excellent result. This is better start to the season than last year and there are two more matches within the next 9 days so let’s hope Blaze can continue their good form.