Lane Dias reports from the Sports Dock as UEL Men fight hard but slump to defeat against their near neighbours
University of East London’s Men’s Volleyball 1st Team lost their opening home match of the BUCS Premier South division, after succumbing to a 3-1 defeat against league new-comers University of Essex in a pulsating match at the Sports Dock on Wednesday.
The visitors established a one-set lead, and while UEL recovered to win the second, the visitors proved too strong.
The hosts were hoping to extend their winning streak following their victory over the University of Cambridge, but knew it would be a tough challenge against the high standard of the Scholarship programme run at Essex University.
UEL started slow in the opening set and found themselves behind early on. That was until Gary Slade, in pure skipper-fashion, reduced the deficit. The American led by example; serving well to ease the pressure on the hosts, albeit unsuccessfully as the visitors eventually took the first set 25-18.
Despite the result Slade was still positive about the performance: “I think we played well. We had point-moments and we also had moments when he had two, three, four-point runs. It just came down to momentum. We had momentum going into the third set but instead of it being a five-point lead; we were up by one and they were up by one and so forth, and then it came down to pressure and just being consistent in our attacks and defence.”
UEL began the second set in the ascendancy and early in the set they led the visitors by four points, but some unforced errors from the hosts allowed Essex to briefly reduce the deficit. However, libero Christian La Du’s fine defensive display helped to preserve UEL’s lead as the hosts took the second set 25-19.
The third set was tightly contested. UEL battled throughout with Slade and number one, John Whitman, spiking well to give the home side a commanding lead, and pile the pressure on the visitors. This became clear when Essex gifted UEL with a set-point after their serve hit the net. However UEL couldn’t take advantage and Essex made them rue their missed opportunities, capitalising on UEL’s unforced errors to come from behind and take the third set 28-26.
Roared-on by the raucous support, UEL battled to the very end, but ultimately Essex prevailed 25-16 in the fourth set to win the match.
After the match Slade explained the mental challenge his side faced during the third set.
“Losing the third set was a gut-punch to us as a team. The last two points [of the third set] was a battle, it was so close and no-one likes to lose when you’re that close. Had we won, I do believe we would have played way better in the fourth set,” Slade said, “We definitely played better than we expected. We had our ups and our downs and obviously the game comes down to who makes the most mistakes.”
UEL travel to the Bournemouth University next Wednesday, where they’ll be hoping to bounce back from the defeat and return to winning ways.