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
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