The Blues beat UCL for the second time in two weeks to narrow the gap with league leaders, Essex, to six points. The points difference can still be closed with two matches of the season remaining for UEL, as the two teams are still set to face each other on February 15th, in what could be a title-deciding match.
Coach Jefferson Williams was impressed with the side’s performance on Big Blue Wednesday and praised John Whitman, who stepped into the starting rotation in the absence of the side’s regular players.
“It was a good job by the guys, considering we were missing the main setter. I thought John stepped in and did an excellent job. He’s competent, he just doesn’t get a chance to play a lot,” Williams said.
Having played UCL away in their previous match, the home side were expecting a tougher contest. However Williams claimed that the match was more comfortable than they had anticipated, despite the hosts taking their foot off the pedal.
“I think the set scores say we played better, because last week, one of the sets was won by two points so this match was never really close. Again they had a lead but they stumbled in the third set, but it’s more because our guys dropped off a little bit and they started taking chances on the serve,” he said.
In contrast, UEL’s Gary Slade suggested that UCL had improved as result of changing tactics in their approach, implying that their visitors were more offensive than in the reverse fixture.
“They played a little more aggressively today and they also had more aggressive serves so they definitely gave us a run at one point but I do think they played better this time round as well,” the American said.
The Blues asserted their dominance in the opening set, leading by a nine-point margin. The nerves set in for the visitors as they served into the net to award the first set to UEL 25-16.
The hosts started the second set on the back-foot, before coming back to take a two-set lead.
UEL lost momentum early in the third set, due to a number of unforced errors and a lack of communication. Williams called a quick time-out to help restore normal service. UEL’s captain Chris Chappell’e spiked home the winner to claim the third set 25-20 and overall victory.
Asked about his timeout that inspired the side to come back and win the set and subsequently the match, Williams said, “I just reminded the guys that they need to get back – get the job done; we’re quite a solid passing unit so if they got the balls in, I was confident and we ran off four-five points to get back in the lead. They just followed instructions and it’s pleasing when that happens,”
UEL will travel to The University of Exeter on Wednesday 8th February, hoping to do the double, against the side they beat in early November. That victory started their impressive five-match winning streak.