UEL Defeat Champions Essex In Five Set Thriller

Adonis Konstantinou reports on UEL's dramatic comeback victory against last season's Premier South Champions The University of Essex

The University of East London’s Men’s Volleyball Team’s perfect run in their 2017-18 Premier South season continued as they defeated last season’s Champions: The University of Essex Men’s First Team (‘The Blades’) by 3 sets to 2 in dramatic comeback fashion at the SportsDock.

The victory was the fifth consecutive win for UEL in the league and also one of their most crucial, having lost their previous meeting between the two teams in February, where Essex triumphed by 3 sets to 1 at the University of Essex Sports Centre.

Resilient Character 

UEL Coach Jefferson Williams was delighted with the team’s character in regards to the nature of their comeback, but also felt that the side could have done more in the opening two sets to win in straight sets.

“A good result for us in a big derby, we had opportunities if we had done what we should have done in the first couple of sets to win the match 3-0. The guys showed good character to come back from 2-1 down to win the fifth set,” Williams said.

Sharp Blades

The Blues had a very poor start to the opening set and found themselves behind by five points, and Coach Williams took drastic action, calling for a time-out in.

Initially, the time-out worked in favour of the hosts, who were leading the first set by 11-10 courtesy of some powerful serves from Andrew Holgate, which helped to win successive points for his team.

However, as the set reached its climax, it was the visitors who gained the momentum and managed to edge UEL 24-26 to take the first set, which was the first set UEL had dropped all season.

Jackson Bantle sets the ball for his teammates

The second set started in similar fashion to the first one, with the visitors leading by four points. Williams again called for a time-out to break Essex’s momentum, and just as they did in the first set, UEL drew level. However this time, the hosts managed to hold onto their lead and went on to win the second set 27-25, with a set apiece.

UEL in action against The University of Essex

Comeback Kings

However Essex took command of the third set and were just one set away from another 3-1 victory over the East Londoners, although on this occasion, UEL showed more character to win the fourth, 25-18 to set up a deciding final set.

In order to win the final set of the match, the required score was 15 points instead of the 25, and following their momentum from the previous set, the hosts managed to edge their opponents 15-12 to seal an emphatic victory.

Mihail Stoev rises high to spike for UEL

‘Biggest Test’

Williams believed that the result was never in doubt despite the margin of victory, but also mentioned that the side have to improve technically.

“I thought we were really confident in the fifth set even if it was 15-12, I did not think at any point that we were going to lose the fifth set. Credit to the guys this was our biggest test so far and we have come through it. So now we know some areas that we made errors that we need to go back and work on and we have time to do that so we will keep preparing,” he said.

“The Invincibles?”

Williams was also optimistic at the possibility of winning the league in invincible fashion, but was cautious of their fixtures against former Premier South Champions.

“This was our fifth consecutive win. There is no reason why we can’t win the league unbeaten but we still have two more tough matches. The first is when we go away at Bournemouth in a couple of weeks’ time, it will be another tough test, we have beaten them here 3-0 and I know we can beat them away. The second is when we go away at Essex for the last match of the league. Today the first two sets that we dropped, it was different for us, and we had to comeback from that and as I said we showed character doing that,” Williams said.

UEL’s next match sees the side travel to The University of Exeter on Wednesday November 15th, to face the Men’s First Team, who they defeated in straight sets in October.