The University of East London’s Men’s Volleyball Team won their first ever BUCS Premier South league title after overturning a two-set deficit to defeat University College London in a five-set thriller, away at Somers Town Community Sports Centre.

All for Juan

UEL Coach Ian Legrand, whose debut match in charge of the side was against UCL just over a year ago, had two significant absentees: Captain Jackson Bantle, who sustained a season-ending injury and libero Juan Varona to a broken-foot. Yet, Legrand was pleased with his deputising players for stepping-up.

“It does not help when your libero breaks his foot, although he tells me he is going to be ready to play next week, so we will see. We are a small group and to get injuries is a fact of life, and it is tough when it is players with that ability, but the other guys stepped up and did the job, so it proves something.”

Coach Ian Legrand speaks to his players.

UEL’s Unity

Despite taking command of the first set 18-25, the visitors dropped two consecutive sets: 25-20 and 25-22, before edging a fourth set 22-25, to send the tie into a deciding fifth, which they ultimately won 12-15.

There were occasions during the match, when it looked as though another league title was going to slip from UEL’s grasp, but having come from two sets down to win the game, Andrew Whitt believed the togetherness of the side had an impact.

“I thought we played as a unit, we really had each other’s backs out there and that when the going got tough, we really got together as a team, put all of our efforts together and something great came out of it.”

Wonderful Whitt

UCL initially started the fifth set in the ascendancy and at one stage led by four points at 6-2, but just as the hosts looked to extend their lead and dash UEL’s title hopes, Austen Lovett and Whitt came to UEL’s rescue, with crucial spikes at the net to level the scores at 7-7, with UEL never looking back.

Andrew Whitt slides for the ball

Legrand reiterated the importance of players putting-in individual shifts, and was particularly delighted with Whitt’s inspirational exhibition.

“The satisfying thing is that when the pressure was really on us in the fifth set, we had individuals turn in some really big performances. Some of the stuff Andrew Whitt did to keep us in the game was outstanding.”

Unswayed By Blades

UEL’s final league match of the season sees them travel to last season’s Premier South Champions: The University of Essex (who they defeated in five sets in the reverse fixtures at SportsDock), and when asked how the side will approach the contest, John Whitman said, “We just have to play with the same intensity and fire and clean up some things in practice, which we will. There are no worries about it next week.”

Libero John Whitman composes himself

The match against Essex takes place on February 7th at the University of Essex Sports Centre and will be broadcasted live on The University of Essex’s YouTube channel at 7pm.