The University of East London’s Men’s Volleyball Team got off to the perfect start in their Premier South campaign after they triumphed in straight sets over the University of Exeter at the Sports Dock.
Following the departures of former Captains Gary Slade and Dave Chapell’e, UEL recruited a number of players over the summer, including William ‘Jackson’ Bantle, who succeeded his fellow Americans as the skipper of the side. Bantle appeared to be settling in very well – spiking successfully six times in the opening set, which the hosts took 25-11, and was pleased with the performance of his new teammates.
“It is definitely a lot different. Everybody kind of comes from different backgrounds so not everybody has necessarily played their whole life. I know a couple of us have played in college back in the States, but it is definitely a different dynamic, there is a lot less stress, it is definitely more fun and it is definitely a more cohesive group on the court. I think we get along really well, after every point we have a lot of energy, which I am not necessarily used to, which is good. So far it has been a lot different but a great experience,” Bantle said.
UEL won the second set 25-17, in less convincing fashion as a result of a catalogue of unforced errors. Asked why the team’s performance had dipped considerably from the first set, Bantle’s compatriot John Whitman, who was part of last season’s side which finished as runners-up in the league, suggested that the team were too ambitious with different techniques and styles of play.
“I just think in the second set, we just took a little bit more risk and sometimes it paid off, sometimes it didn’t, but when we did get into ruts, we knew how to keep our composure and tried more to win the second set,” Whitman said.
The hosts cruised through in the third set, which they won 25-8 to seal the victory, with Bantle’s spikes again causing havoc for the Exeter defence. However, the American suggested that his spiking ability was actually not his forte.
“I generally think that serving has been my strongest point, but since I got here, I have been struggling with that. I think I missed four or five serves tonight, which is pretty much unacceptable, but hitting has definitely been something that has been in the middle of my game. I am used to being a smaller outside, so I just take what I can get,” Bantle said.
UEL host Bournemouth University, who defeated the University of Essex in their opening game, on October 18th and Whitman is cautious about the opponents, indicating a stern test due to Bournemouth strengthening well over the summer, although the American is optimistic that UEL would win.
“Bournemouth has always been a strong team, they have been a volleyball community down in the southern part of England. They managed to get some good recruits coming in this year, they have some good returners as well, but we are in the same boat. We have got some good recruits we have got some high level volleyball players, so make no mistake – it is going to be a dogfight, but we will definitely prevail and come out on top,” Whitman said.