The final game of the season saw TEVC promotion hopefuls travel to Cardiff knowing a win will give them the Division 1 title and secure Super 8 volleyball next season. Traveling without their star talisman James Bernardi and knowing the reverse fixture was a 3-2 win for Essex, Blaze knew it would be a tough game.
Blaze started strongly pushing into an early lead with Cardiff not wanting to be left behind. All eyes turned to big opposite Gary House who along with some superb setting from Cameron Rhodes, started to score heavily through the right side. After taking an 8 point lead midway through the first set, Blaze began to take the foot of the pedal and started to make a mini comeback with some great swings from their own big opposite, Jonas Kaminski. However, another solid performance from libero Mahlon King allowed the Blaze serve receive unit to function without fault, giving Cameron full reign to set any of the hitters, all of which were on fire, scoring point after point. This carried on until Blaze took the first set 25- 21.
Going into set 2, Cardiff looked to take back control of the tie, however blaze had other ideas. With both teams siding out during the early exchanges, it was Blaze that started to resume domination with Cameron Rhodes going on a good service run scoring couple of aces. With Cardiff winning back the serve with a middle kill, it was only fitting on a perfect pass from Michael Pagalos, Joe Palombo should do the same with a big swing down to position 1. Blaze raced into a 14-7 lead before the setter swap, and introduction of fan and team favourite Ashley Toomey. Blaze’s pass receive unit started to make mistakes, causing other unforced errors throughout the team. The team were in trouble, the beacons were lit and it was coach BK who came to aid, calling a timeout at just the right moment. The team responded well, and even though the lead was reduced to just 2 points, they started to play like champions. Most notably Michael Pagolos with a big 1-1 block against their free scoring opposite. It was at this point that Cameron Rhodes was brought back into the game to steady the ship, finishing out the set 25-20.
The 3rd set started just how the last set finished, with Blaze continuing their dominance front court and spreading the Cardiff block. With Joe Palombo continuing his offence through the middle, it was the turn of Dan Northfield to show everyone what he can do with thunderous spikes all around the Cardiff court. This combined with Blaze bringing Toby French into the fray with some powerful pipes from back court for the first time in the game. Despite all this, Cardiff was keeping themselves in the game with a number of good serves keeping Blaze out of system. Blaze managed to keep out in front until 19-19, when Toby French went back to the service line. Altering from his usual Jump spin to a float serve all but assured the serve will be in the court. A net touch on the block from Cardiff gave Blaze the point, 20 -19. A rare hitting error from their opposite took the score to 21-19. Time-out called by Cardiff. Despite the pressure or knowing the Division 1 title was now only 4 points away, everyone from Blaze knew their jobs and some wise words from coach BK allowed the team to relax on court. A great piece of defense from Cameron Rhodes kept Blaze in the rally forcing a Cardiff hitting mistake, 22-19. An unstoppable swing from Gary House through the outside brought it to 23-19. And then due to something said to the referee, a yellow card was shown to Cardiff. Now a block from Gary House that a scrambling Cardiff team couldn’t get back over. 24-19. Then an air of confusion set around the hall. Cardiff received a red crd, giving Blaze the point they needed to win the game and to win Division 1.
Blaze are now the first ever Essex based Men’s team to reach the Super 8’s
A big thank you is needed for everyone who ever came to support one of our home games, who ever came to one of our fundraising events, to both Coach BK and his assistant Sean Poole, and especially to our sponsors Wibblers Brewery, Self Gym, The Ace Day, Stephen Rosser Accountants, The Boswells School and The University of Essex who all gave invaluable support over the duration of this season.
SEE YOU ALL NEXT YEAR IN SUPER 8’S!!!