Blaze Almost Extingushed
Sunday 11th December brought the toughest game of the season so far for Essex Blaze. Cardiff had a disappointing day before losing in 5 sets to Richmond and set out to take a victory home with them against the only unbeaten team in Division 1.
Blaze started off poorly losing a run of points and couldn’t cope with the strong serve coming from Cardiff. Coach BK brought some calmness across the team and Blaze started to make their way back into the set from some big swings on either side from Kieran Good and Toby French. However, this was not enough and Blaze lost their 2nd set of season 21-25.
Blaze were fired up in the 2nd set to correct everything that was wrong in the 1st. The serve receive started to function properly with libero Mahlon King taking charge, and everything else just fell in place. Our service pressure started to trouble Cardiff, especially with Chester Searle coming from the bench getting an ace. And with this, Blaze took the 2nd set 25-21 and levelled the game.
The 3rd set started slowly with neither team wanting the other to get the advantage. With some big blocks and the middle slowly becoming more of a threat for Essex. Blaze began to pull away from Cardiff and created a big lead. However, complacency set in and it allowed Cardiff to bring themselves back into the game. Fortunately for Blaze, the lead was enough to see out the set 25-22, and take the lead 2-1.
Going into the 4th set, Blaze were confident on securing victory this set. However, Cardiff had other ideas and wanted to take it to 5 sets. Michael Pagalos with some smart swings through the outside kept the score for Blaze ticking over but Cardiff had too much with their middles working well. Unfortunately, Blaze’s block just couldn’t stop the Cardiff offence and Cardiff levelled the tie 2-2 with a 4th set victory 22-25.
Going into the 1st five set game of the season, and with Blaze’s undefeated record under threat, nerves were high. And Blaze made 2 poor mistakes at the start of the set before coach BK called a quick time-out. His calm words had a very good effect over the team and from this time-out, Blaze took the next 5 points. Some big swings from Toby French on the wing with some unforced errors from Cardiff meant at the change of ends, Blaze were in pole position. However, a motivated Cardiff brought themselves back in the game and took the lead 8-10. Some errors from both sides and some clever middle hits from Cardiff gave them an 11-14 lead and 3 match points. Perhaps unfortunately, this is when Blaze decided to play their best volleyball. A perfect pass from Mahlon gave Cameron the perfect opportunity to set middle which allowed Daniel Northfield a big swing and 1 match point saved. An overpass from Cardiff gave the experienced James Bernardi an easy kill to save yet another match point, 12-14. Another poor pass from Cardiff meant a free ball to Blaze Libero Mahlon King, which resulted in Toby French using the Cardiff block to score the point, 13-14. 2 aces in a row from Kieran Good gave match point to Blaze, 15-14. A good shot from the Cardiff outside gave them a lifeline and levelled the game 15-15. Another kill from Toby French gave another match point for Blaze. Finally, a unfortunate tip into the antenna from the Cardiff outside meant the set went to Essex 17-15 and the game 3-2.
This was a great game of volleyball from both sides and we here at Team Essex Volleyball cannot wait for the return fixture in March to play Cardiff again.
MVP: Toby French