UEL Women’s Volleyball first team maintained their title challenge with a dominant straight-sets victory against Oxford University at SportsDock last Wednesday.
Prior to tip-off UEL had won all six of their matches, sat top of the table, and boasted an impressive defensive record having dropped just one set all season.
Meanwhile, Oxford occupied fourth place in the Premier South and came into the game having lost 3-1 to second-placed Essex the previous week. The visitors had played just four games this season, the least in the division, and two less than UEL.
In their final match before the Christmas break, UEL were fully focused on staying top of the tree and rounding off the first term in style.
The hosts made a strong start to the match and stormed into an early 5-0 lead. Kristyna Lindovska’s spike caused confusion in the Oxford ranks, before Alvie Co delicately tapped her shot over the net which prompted Oxford into calling an early time out.
After this, the visitors cut their deficit to three points and trailed 6-3. However, communication proved to be their downfall. UEL’s Arielle Love capitalised with an ace, before captain Ashley Headen’s spike moved the hosts into a 10-4 lead.
It had been a dominant opening set from UEL, who had firmly stamped their authority on the match from the off. Lindovska and Headen combined to perform a block, before a spike from Ana Petkovic gave UEL a 12-point lead.
UEL were eager to get the first set under their belts. Headen tapped over the net before Oxford’s Nicola Trendel replied with a spike. However, the hosts drove towards the 25-point mark, with Ladan Rocha’s serve dropping out of bounds to hand UEL the first set by 25-9.
Team to beat
It was a prolific first-set showing from UEL, who continued their fine form as the second set got underway. Love and Allie Davenport pulled off two fine shots at the net, before Lindovska feinted to spike which caught the Oxford frontline off guard.
Oxford had not managed to get a foothold in the match, and were struggling to get points on the board. UEL were proving why they are reigning champions, and establishing themselves as the team to beat.
UEL saw out the second set comfortably 25-8. The depth in their squad allowed them to rotate players, who showed they can adapt to different positions and perform for the team.
With a sixth straight-set victory of the season within touching distance, UEL raced into a 4-1 lead thanks to Love’s unstoppable spike. Annie Bierman’s spike proved too hot to handle, before Autumn Jenkins scored a hat-trick of points to give UEL a commanding 15-8 lead.
With player rotation a key factor in the game for the hosts, Davenport returned to the court and made an immediate impact with a fierce spike. At 20-10, Oxford had breached double figures for the first time in the match but still had plenty of work to do.
Jenkins and Bierman scored further points for UEL, before Headen’s nice touch over the net ensured that UEL secured a seventh consecutive league victory to cap off their magnificent 2017.
UEL will be looking forward to the Christmas break now after a successful start to their campaign. This will give them time to reflect on their achievements, before returning to league action with a reverse fixture against Oxford University on January 17th.