The victory was not only crucial for the Premier South title race – it was important to see how the team would react to the departure of Simon Loftus, and how they would perform with their new coaches in charge.
UEL’s new head coach, Jefferson Williams, was pleased with the team performance despite still getting to know the players and working on solidifying their fundamentals.
“It’s a challenge,” said Williams. “So far the girls have been quite responsive and I like the direction we are moving in.”
UEL opened the match with a few serving and technical errors, but they soon managed to clean up their play to pull away and take the first set 25-17.
Oxford were under pressure from the attack of Cara Olden and Kelsey Blankerts. The hosts did not take their foot from the pedal. As a nine-point margin opened, UEL secured the second set 25-13.
Errors cost UEL the chance to make substitutions in the final set as Oxford took control early on. However, the leadership of Ashley Fantazia shone through as the team pulled it back to clinch the final set 25-17.
Williams said “As we got close to end the game we missed too many serves, and I gave them liberty to pick serving targets. As I get used to them I’ll give them more serving target directions and we’ll get to be a bit more specific about what our block is doing.”
As the regular season comes to an end, Williams reflects on the upcoming fixtures against Sussex and finally Essex Blades:
“I have seen the Essex team as I watched them play before Christmas. We won the first match against Sussex so, obviously, unless they got new people in I would expect us to win as well and then it would be about the Essex match. When we get to that match we need to be at the level the game requires.”
UEL closed the first half of the season top of the league, but are now chasing Essex, who have a game in hand. Still having to compete against each other in the final match of the season, the title race will go down to the wire on February 15th.
Big Blue Wednesday hosts the final home match of the season for the women’s team, when they will face Sussex at 4pm in the Sports Dock.