Author Archives: Paul French

Impressive Win for Team Essex Men’s Cup team

Blaze won their first competitive match of the season at their new home venue at the University of Essex. Blaze played with swagger and easily revenged the cup defeat to London Baks two years ago.   

The cup match started well for Blaze with Cameron serving an ace, excellent blocking in the middle and a clever roll shot from Michael into an empty court.    

Unfortunately, at 8-3, Cameron fell badly on an ankle and had to leave the court. On came Ashley and exemplified Blaze’s strength in depth. Blaze reception was working well giving Ashley plenty of opportunity to execute the coach BK’s game plan.

TEVC raced to a 16-8 lead from a perfect pass from libero Mahlon, set and once again, clean hit winner from Alex.

London Baks, newly promoted to Div 2, had arrived with minimal squad of 8 and even at this early stage there seems little they can do to stem the tide.  It was clear there’s was quite a difference in ability.   

London Baks defence stayed determined though, forcing TEVC to win the set the right way. Such is the strength of the squad at 21-10, our new opposite Sonny Chaney was introduced. His first touch was a dominating block to the 1m line.

Blaze relaxed, reduced their error count and exerted their authority to ease away to win the 1st set comfortably at 25-11.  

Set 2 started with Cameron back on and Jermaine Miles making his first appearance. Like Sonny, his first contribution was a block to the 1m line. Jermaine then delivered a clean roll shot winner into open court and followed this up with another block. Sonny, Jermaine and Alex in the front line created a formidable defence.

However, whilst Blaze led 8-4 lead at the first break. This became a scrappy set with few rallies. Blaze are either hitting winners or losing the points through errors. Blaze won 25-15.

Set 3 started with England Junior star Joe Polumbo in the line up. Joe started his service run with an ace and, despite his young age, looked assured in the middle. Dan came on at the next rotation and demonstrated why Blaze won Div 1 last year dominating the middle with clever placement and clean hitting.

Blaze led 16-7 at the break and whilst Baks never really let their heads drop, they were unable to change the momentum of the match and were seriously “outgunned”. Alex effectively sealed the match for Blaze with a run of 7 penetrating float serves. Blaze took set 3 at a canter, 25-8.

Coach BK was able to rotate the squad and give all his players a competitive game. Useful preparation towards the start of the Super 8 NVL season.

Watch out for Blaze’s new kit. It will debut in their first NVL match next week in Newcastle.  

Blaze take on the Danes

Saturday 8th March 2014 11.30am. The stage was set for an epic match at the Boswells Academy. Blaze had played poorly against Danes earlier in the year losing 0-3 and wanted to put that right. Unfortunately, big Rob Poole had to pull out of the match with a back injury and others were either carrying an injury or just recovering from one. Even so, it was shock to see the lads lose 0-3 (9-25, 18-25, 26-28).

Coach Darren Lewis changed the normal Blaze rotation to try in set 1 to compensate for Rob’s absence and injury worries. However Blaze barely flickered in the first set going 2-8 then 6-16 down in quick time. A time out by Blaze at 6-20 just delayed the inevitable. It could only get better for Blaze.

The home supporters cheered at the first real sparks from Blaze at the start of the 2nd set. Blaze deservedly took an early lead 6-5 following a fast reverse set by Tom. Danes then had a run of points off their best punch server and took control to lead 9-16. Blaze once again had trouble making effective blocks. Jack Watson then lead a mini comeback from the service line forcing Danes to take a time out at 13-19. However Blaze continued to dominate this part of the match closing to 16-19 with clinical middle play by James Bernardi. However Danes then rallied themselves and closed out the set comfortably 18-25.

The 3rd set proved to be the best of the tie. Blaze reception finally started to make give Sam some setting options. There were fine kills from both wings and through the middle. Blaze led 8-7. Then James hit a brace of clean winners from the middle to take the score to 16-14. An ace from Toby pushed Blaze lead up to 19-16. However, as before Blaze faltered when they should have pushed home their advantage. A time out at 19-18 tried to halt the tide turning but Danes pressed further and took the lead at 21-22. At 23-24 James stepped up to the service line and got one to land on the net and dribble over. Did this mean the gods were smiling on Blaze? Next point Jack set Toby from well in the back court to win the point and create a set point. Danes then maintained a great defensive performance to pull level. Blaze had further chances to take the set but just couldn’t get the ball down. It was an exciting set but ultimately disappointing end for the home supporters.

With only five games left to play this season, there is a real dog fight in the relegation zone. The table below shows the teams in the bottom half of the league. The bottom two will be automatically relegated; third from bottom will be in a pay off. Any three of six could be relegated. Blaze have still the play Lynx, Northumbria and Birmingham at home so maintaining Div 1 status is still in Blaze hands. Come on lads!

Position            Team                Played           Won                Lost               Points
London Lynx 2
Northumbria / Middlesbrough Academy
Essex Blaze
City of Bristol

TEVC Mens Cup Shield Dreams Dashed

The Mens Round 2 of the Shield took place in Plymouth  on 11th January. TEVC were a little unfortunate in having drawn the reigning champions, Flaming Six Aces, in the first round of the cup proper and now Horndean, last year’s runners up in the Shield.


Rear Line: Toby French, Andy Frith, James Bernardi, Sam Thompson and Luke French

Front Line: Rees Warren, Dave Fenech and Tony Clarke

 The match started evenly with Horndean service errors helping TEVC to a 6-8 lead by the first technical. There then started a great battle amongst the middle players particularly James against Horndean’s excellent M Russell (No. 10). The set was tight up to 17–17 when good serving from Toby took TEVC to 21-17 lead. TEVC were then ahead 18-22 when Horndean  took a run of 6 points. TEVC had opportunities but couldn’t put the ball on the floor and eventually lost the set 25-23.

TEVC came out fighting in the second set racing to an early lead of 4-1 forcing a Horndean time out. However, the proverbial wheels then came off the wagon following the first technical (7-8) as TEVC lost the set badly 25-15. This was hugely disappointing as TEVC had shown in the first set they could complete well against a very good Horndean side but passing and hitting errors made Horndean’s job far too easy.

Set 3 started as the 2nd had finished with Horndean taking a commanding leads of 8-3 and then 16-8. TEVC seemed well and truly beaten but then maybe relaxed and started to play good volleyball again fighting back strongly to 18-13. TEVC continues to have the edge in the set and had opportunities to win a remarkable set but the finishing line came too quickly and Horndean won the set 25-21, closing out the match 3-0.

The result was a major disappointment as the club had beaten Horndean twice last year in the league. However, “hats off” to a good Horndean side that played well. There’s always next year lads!


Blaze goes the extra mile to notch up second win

London Knights -16th November 2013 @Westminster College

Northumbria/Middlesbrough Academy – 17th November 2013 @ Middlesbrough College

This weekend double header away fixture took on some significance as Blaze were seeking to build on their sole win this season.  After the start to the season this was a match target for a win. London Knights had been struggling in the league with 4 losses.

Knights sole win last week was against Bristol (3-1). In contrast, Blaze had lost at Danes Watford where they showed glimpses of what they were capable of but essentially were outplayed by a more experienced and consistent team, losing 0-3.

In set 1 Blaze more than matched Knights early on, benefiting from a run of four serves from Luke French. The set was close right up to the business end when Knights eased away to win 25-23. Blaze just couldn’t convert the chances they had.

Set 2 began well for Blaze matching Knights with notable blocks from Will Ferrier in the middle. Toby French’s overhead serving created some pressure at times but couldn’t be sustained. Coach Darren Lewis had been proactive playing through various squad combinations, including a double libero set up but couldn’t help Blaze create and sustain any momentum.

At the start of set 3, again Blaze started brightly but then fell behind. At 16-8 at the second time out, Blaze had lost confidence. Knights were playing well as a team and consistent serving and great defense returning big hits from all areas. Despite this disappointing loss, there were some positives to take away; the pass reception unit had performed better than last week and will need to put in a strong performance tomorrow.

tobyWillAndyJoeLukeRob and RyanRob and Luke                Sam

Above: Blaze Warm Up

The loss to London Knights added on pressure to perform better in Middlesbrough. The team headed 250 miles North for an overnight stay at The “Spa” Hotel just 11 miles from the venue. Following breakfast at 9am, the team set off for the venue just 11 miles away.

The match started off well for Blaze. Early errors from Northumbria and three blocks from Blaze meant we reached the first time out 7-8 up. Some serving and handling errors then allowed Northumbria to match Blaze but then Rob Poole began to impose himself at the net to score some big hits to help Blaze close out the set 25-18.

In Set 2 Northumbria raced to a 8 – 3 lead. Luke French had been “playing up” and being need for Estonian matches next month this was the last set he would be available for Blaze this year. Luke started a good run of play by Blaze by smashing a middle hit which helped bring the score back to 11-10. Blaze were back in the set but Northumbria upped their game again and pulled away to 16-12. Although Blaze fought back to 24-24 but unfortunately faltered at the end to lose the set 26-24.

Set 3 started poorly for Blaze but the team then started to really play well to go 16 -11 up. All the team were stepping up to play some great volleyball ably marshalled by our setter Tom Storkey. While Northumbria still retained a threat through the middle Blaze defence was effective and forced many hitting errors. Blaze won the set 18-25.

Blaze in confident mood started Set 4 well but a higher number of hitting and passing errors from Blaze allowed Northumbria to gain control of the set and go on the win 25-20.

The loss of Set 4 was a major disappointment and with two five sets losses already this year the travelling support were nervous! Not so Coach Lewis who changed things round, bringing on Ryan Poole at 4 and moved Andy Saward to middle with Dan North. What followed was one of the best 5th sets Blaze has played. Passing setting and hitting were all finding their mark and the game was finally won in quick time in some style.

“Old” and “new” hands Toby French, Andy Saward and Mahlon King passed with a respectable average 2.35. Rob Poole was top scorer with 20 kills and 7 blocks and was awarded MPV.

The match video (first 4 sets) can be found on YouTube on our channel Here >>


Newcastle Staffs Vs Blaze

Team Essex Volleyball Club Match Report
Newcastle Staffs Vs Blaze
Date: 21/09/13 Venue: Keele University

Day 1 brought an intriguing match against Newcastle Staffs (Staffs) which last season as playing in the Super 8 division. Unfortunately injury and other commitments meant Coach Darren and four players were unavailable. Step up then Sean Poole to coach the side and talented youngsters Ryan Poole and Matthew Ketley to bolster the squad. Blaze played brilliantly in parts but lost the match 2-3 (25-23, 22-25, 13-25, 25-22, 15-10).


Back Row: James Munro, Ryan Poole, Rob Poole, Jo Houlihan, William Ferrier, Sean Poole (coach.)
Front Row: Dan Northfield, Toby French, Mahlon King, Tom Storkey, Matthew Ketley.

The first set was not always top quality volleyball. Blaze looked a little slow and through high error count contributed to the loss of the set. Blaze burst into life in the second set but only after limping to 16-9 down at the second technical time out. Who knows what Coach Sean said but there followed some memorable pick-ups and plays. Notably, big Rob blocking, top hitting from James, another Toby ace to make it 20-23 followed up by solid passing, setting and two consecutive pipe hits to win the set 22-25. Fantastic stuff.

In set 3 Staffs wilted under the pressure from Blaze. Blaze was now playing well as a team and kept balls live that in the first set had found the floor. Mahlon’s presence was growing in the passing unit and Tom’s decision making and sets spot on. Blaze serving and hitting were now consistent and making the game look easy. 3 errors from Staff closed the set.

However, Blaze started set 4 badly and quickly fell behind 8-3. Service and handling errors from Blaze meant to gap widened slightly at the second technical time out 16-10. Staffs were now playing well with strong plays from both wings and with strong vocal support from the home crowd. But typically Blaze rallied again and closed to 23-21 before Staffs finally saw the set out.

In the 5th set Blaze once again started badly. Handling and passing errors meant they were 8-2 down in quick time. There was a mini recovery when Toby’s heavy serving helped narrow the gap back to 13-10 and supporters briefly wondered whether Blaze could grasp victory but it was
not to be.

Whilst the loss was disappointing Blaze showed their potential by outplaying an experienced and strong Staffs team for long periods of the game. With a bit more consistency Blaze could have won this match. They will have the opportunity to put matters right when they entertain Staffs
at Bowsells Sports Hall at 11.30am on 19th October 2013. Let’s get along to support them.

Congratulations to Toby French who was named Blaze MVP