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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Vollox in top of the table clash

Saturday saw the 3 top teams in men's Div 1 battle it out in games that could have a big impact on their podium positions at the end of the season.  At the start of the day it was Vollox who sat at the top of the table, Spikeos in 2nd place and Farnborough lay in 3rd having had a strong performance in the second half of the season (their team having been bolstered by the addition of a new setter).
The fixture almost didn't happen as 48 hours earlier Spikeos had announced that they wouldn't have enough players to put together a team - they were missing 4 players - however they turned up on Saturday with 7 players - the same number as Vollox (who were also missing 4 players)!

Farnborough vs Spikeos

As the home team, Vollox started the triangular with the task of officiating the game between the other two teams. This gave them a chance to identify some strengths and weaknesses and build an idea of a game plan for their later games.

It was a bit of a strange contest however, given that Farnborough's best spiker sat on the bench for the entire match!
Handicapped by this tactic, Farnborough failed to sideout efficiently, and a number of cheap points tipped the balance towards Spikeos who finished as slightly unconvincing winners in a 2 set victory.

0-2 (21-25, 21-25)

Vollox vs Farnborough

Having seen Farnborough's performance against Spikeos, it's possible that Vollox took their opponents too lightly at the start of the match and underestimated how much of a difference their key player would make, now that he was on court instead of on the bench.  A series of uncharacteristic errors led to the Vollox players finding themselves down 3-9 in the first set.  Unable to establish any momentum they fell further behind, until a timeout a 7-16 finally woke them up.  They fought back, but were disadvantaged by a number of "controversial" decisions from the referee and their comeback was halted at 25-21 with one final unforced error giving Farnborough the set.
At the change of ends Vollox re-grouped and carried forward the positives from when they had fought their way back into the match.  Having lost to Farnborough the last time that they had met, they were keen not to allow history to repeat itself.  They started strongly in the 2nd set with everything - passing, digging, hitting - coming together to give them a small lead.  This lasted until the business end of the set, when Farnborough leveled the score at 21-21.  With their outsides consistently killing the ball in spite of the Vollox block's best attempts, Farnborough closed out the set at 25-23.

0-2 (22-25, 23-25)  MVP = Jon Williams (for his brilliant performance in defense as much as his solid setting)

Vollox vs Spikeos 1
The earlier results meant that the final match of the triangular would decide who finished at the top of the table on Saturday.  As an extra incentive, it was Lenny's last match playing for Vollox, and no one wanted to send him back to France on the back of two defeats!
Vollox started well, siding out the first time of asking for Spikeos first full rotation. Oxford were able to score points on their serve, thanks to good pressure and some aggressive attacking from all the hitters. This resulted in Spikeos taking their first timeout at 5-11.  This saw a brief improvement from Spikeos, but they soon fell further behind as Vollox powered their way to a 20-13 lead.  Reading took their second timeout but the damage had already been done and Vollox eased to the end of the first set without looking too troubled.
The 2nd set was a similar story.  The Vollox team worked hard and pulled together to put in a very solid performance in all areas of the court.  Spikeos tried to keep up using their middle attack when they could, but with Simon blocking him and the defense picking up balls here and there Vollox maintained a lead throughout the set until the end.  They thought they had won the match when the 2nd referee signaled a positional fault, but Reading successfully appealed and then sided out.  However they didn't delay the outcome for long, as their server then put the ball in the net to hand Vollox the win.
2-0 (25-19, 25-18) MVP = Gareth Whitehead

With each team having won one match 2-0 and lost one match 2-0, the table remained the same as it was at the start of the day, so Lenny heads back to France with Vollox sitting at the top, needing to win their two remaining games to bring home the title for the 3rd season in a row.


Written by Gareth

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Oxford Ladies are League Champions!

Today we travelled to Peterborough to play our last game of the season. Coach Jon made it clear he expected us to win the game in straight sets - although our opponents, Peterborough Harriers, were looking hopeful during the warm up when we turned up a little later than expected (tiny misunderstanding of difference between 'warm up time' and 'start time'...).

A briefly shaky start in the first set meant Peterborough were ahead by a few points, however by the time of the first technical time out we had not only caught up but overtaken them and they never recovered. Despite a couple of service runs by Peterborough in the second and third sets, we delivered a solid team performance and took the game 3:0, as (quietly) expected by Jon.

After a quick check with the referees who confirmed that our set difference is sufficiently higher than Cambridge's, we cracked open the champagne and got out the strawberries (thanks Nela and Masia!) to celebrate our promotion to NVL Division 2 next season.

Is it going to be Division 2 South or North? - this is to be decided after the playoffs. This Division was only a warm up for what is coming. Good luck ladies and well done. And for the end: "We are the champions, we are the champions of the small volleyball world :)"


Well deserved MVP was Sonia who is still leading the league's MVP table (we won't know for sure until the end of April when all games have been played)!

Written by Amra (and Annika)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Oxford Sharks managed to swim through stormy seas!

Last Sunday the Oxford Sharks headed to Reading with Felipe as setter, Tomas and Stefano as middles, Karina as coach/captain/opposite, Izzy and Asia as outsides and our mascot, Headington, as supporter.
Two very tough and very long matches against stubborn competitors. Both matches were point to point and went to the tie breaks where Oxford Sharks managed to find the last energies and outdo the opponents.

1st match against Maidenhead 2

We fought very hard (1st set 31 minutes) for this victory against a strong Maidenhead team. (29:31; 26:24; 15:10). Thanks to excellent team work with outstanding individual performances we had the better end of a very close match.

2nd match against Spikeos 2

Again we played 3 sets to victory over another opponent with some strong hitters and good organization in the field (23:25; 25:18; 15:12).

A few highlights from the matches:

- Asia (our special guest for the day, thanks), digging an almost vertical hit within the 3 m line from one of the most terrifying hitters, right onto Felipe’s head.
- Tomas finding his service again and scoring 10 points in a row contributing big time to unsettling the opponent and turning the match around while we were down 1 set and 6 points in the second set against Spikeos.
- Felipe going after a tip over the block with one of his many great dives just to realise in time it was going out and then avoiding touch with most skillful acrobatics.
- Izzy got MVP for both matches not only for playing great volleyball in attacking and cover but equally important great team motivation and keeping our communication going.
- Stefano, scoring the last point of the day blocking a very strong hit from Spikeos’ middle. A liberation for everyone.
- Karina, great volleyball, wise coaching and strong referee exhorting.
- Headington, the sharkiest shark in Oxfordshire who is always with us to raise our spirits.

Only two matches left. One is a special one. See you in two weeks!!!!

Written by Stefano/Karina

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Two wins for Oxford Ladies!

Today on International Women's Day, the NVL girls went to Dartford and won both games.  With 37 points they are again on top of the league. Well done girls!

In the first game, Oxford played against Dartford Ladies. Dartford put up a strong fight, and with the game's ups and downs it was good to see that the Oxford Ladies were able to focus to win the match 3:0. Everyone played very well, but Marta with her injury put in an exceptional shift.

The second game was against Northampton (third in the league). This was also a very tricky tie. Northampton Ladies' players were very good, well organised and picking up everything that came over the net. Their serves were consistently targeting empty spots. On the other side, Oxford Ladies were trying to find a way to break their opponents down. And they succeeded in the end. Just when it seemed Oxford were going to lose a set they came back, pulling a couple of tricks out of their sleeves. By winning these two games NVL Oxford ladies are almost through to the next level (NVL second division). With only one game left, in two weeks time against Peterborough Harriers Ladies, if Oxford can win that, they are up!

Written by Amra