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.
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 >>