UEL Women’s Volleyball first team made light work of the University of Bournemouth with a convincing straight-set victory at the SportsDock on Wednesday afternoon.
Both teams tasted victory on the opening day of the new season and were keen to pick up from where they left off. UEL cruised past Cambridge in straight sets, whilst Bournemouth overcame Essex 3-1.
UEL have experienced a heavy turnover of players over the summer, with familiar faces departing and new faces stepping into their shoes. There is a chemistry beginning to develop amongst the team, one that will only get stronger as the season progresses.
UEL were caught off guard in the opening exchanges as Bournemouth came flying out of the blocks into a 5-0 lead. Marina Bella strung some fine aces together, forcing the hosts into calling an early time out.
This seemed to work wonders for UEL, who recovered quickly and raced into a 15-10 lead. Kristyna Lindovska, Allie Davenport and captain Ashley Headen combined fierce spikes and delicate touches over the net to put the hosts on the front foot.
From there, UEL created a commanding lead and opened up an eight-point gap. Despite Bournemouth’s best attempts and positivity, UEL’s Annie Bierman produced a wonderful spike to secure the first set by a score of 25-17.
UEL dominated for the majority of the second set. They quickly established a 10-3 lead with Lindovska, Bierman and Headen taking centre stage with unforgiving spikes and intelligent point scoring at the net.
As the hosts continued to extend their lead, Kellisha Harley and Arielle Love added to the scoresheet to give UEL a 22-10 lead. However, Bournemouth put on a fierce opposition, who made UEL work for their points and managed to claw back five of their own.
However, Bierman’s slight tap over the net ensured UEL took the second set by 25-17, the same scoreline as the first, and left the hosts just one set away from victory.
After showing character to reverse a shaky start, and quality to assert their dominance in the match UEL produced a strong finish to end Bournemouth’s hopes of a fourth set. Taylor Treacy converted a great spike for the visitors, but UEL proved too powerful in attack.
Lindovska rose at the net to block a shot which dropped kindly back onto Bournemouth’s side to give UEL a 14-8 advantage. The East London side were in a great position now and knew the importance of avoiding costly errors and seeing the game out.
The hosts widened the gap between the sides to 14 points, with UEL taking the set 25-11 after Bierman’s ruthless spike which ensured UEL maintained their 100% start to the season in style.
Solid performance and new challenges
UEL Volleyball coach Jefferson Williams gave his assessment of the team’s performance: “It was good, especially the way the last set finished I thought it was fairly clinical. A lot of things came together, the girls served well and I’ve got a good group. They’re quite physical, they know how to play, but there are still some areas we need to work on. I think our blocking needs to be a lot tighter, and we can still put a bit more speed into our offence. Overall, I think it was a solid performance.”
When asked if his side not dropping a set in their opening two matches pleased him, Williams said: “It does, and in some ways I suppose I beat myself up a little bit because I could have made some more substitutions and given some of the other players an opportunity to play. As a coach, my experience says that you’ve got to manage the game momentum and sometimes you can be your own worst enemy by making changes. I’m a safe coach, but overall it’s good.”
On the topic of how the new players have adapted to the team, Williams said: “It’s a good group, I think it’s a much stronger group than last year so much so that the setter from last year is now the second setter. We have three very good outside hitters so on the day I’m not sure which one I’m going to start, so it’s all about who warms up best.”
“I still have Kristyna the opposite from last season. It’s a solid team, quite physical and quite experienced as well. It’s looking good, we’ve established a level but I still know that we have another 30 or 40 per cent to give. It’s just a case of pushing, putting some more things in place and starting to challenge the girls to get better.”
After a positive start to the season, the UEL Women’s Volleyball team take a short break before returning to action on November 1st where they will welcome the University of Bristol to SportsDock with first serve at 4pm.