Sunday, April 13, 2014

And the Eagles soar!

Today was a lovely sunny day for a nice leisurely drive down to Reading for the Eagles' penultimate match of the season. So of course half the team decided to switch to Italian time, meaning that coach Neil had to really floor it to get us there on time. But arrive on time we did, with Tati, Steffi, Giulia, Izzy, Amra, Asia, Kerstin and Helen all set for two key matches.

The first match was against Spikeos 2, who had brought quite a few Spikeos 1 players with them. But this was to no avail and the Eagles won in 2 sets, although the second set was closer than the first. Numpty captain forgot to bring the scoresheets home, but MVP in this match was definitely Amra.

The second match was against Maidenhead, who brought a strong team. But the Eagles kept their nerve, recovering well from a dramatic moment when Tati pushed Steffi to the floor in her keenness to set. We won the first set fairly easily but then took it a bit closer than we'd have liked before winning the second set too. MVP was Steffi.

All in all, it was a great couple of matches, and Neil is relieved that he should be able to keep his job for next year!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Super Sunday - clash of the top 3 teams!

Game 1 - Oxford Ladies v Darkstar Derbyshire
We started the game slowly but steadily, never letting Derbyshire get ahead and gradually pulling away and extending the lead. At 24-15, the opposition defended 5 set points but a service error meant we took the set 25-20.

The second set started similarly but we managed to pull away much sooner and didn’t let Derbyshire get a service run at the end of the set. We won it 25-16.

What we had hoped to be the final set started more like the first, we kept a steady lead but let them catch up with us at 18 all, to quote the Derbyshire setter at that point: 'It appears we have just woken up!’- this certainly seemed to be true. They started defending and attacking much more efficiently than they had in the previous 2 sets and despite fighting back, we finally lost it  26-28.

Despite an early lead in the 4th set, Derbyshire slowly clawed their way back and some clever serving on their part right when they needed it meant we were heading for a decider - we lost this set 21-25.

The decider - Jon was almost ready to start smoking again at this point and it was only going to get more tense. We were 8-4 down at the point of changing ends. At 13-9 down Jon took a timeout and somehow woke up the fighter in each of us. We went back and got the 2 points we needed to be back in the game. At 13-11 down, Derbyshire’s coach took a timeout, which worked as they went on to 3 match points, leading 14-11. They failed to convert the first one and at 14-12 down, Sonia went to serve 4 of her most evil serves and finally, after almost 2 hours, the most epic game of the season so far was ours. (MVP Federica)

Game 2 - Darkstar Derbyshire v Birmingham 1
Birmingham dominated from the beginning but didn’t look as convincing as expected. They won the first 2 sets to 21 and 22 respectively and lost the 3rd to 18 but Derbyshire fell completely apart in the 4th and lost it to 12.

Game 3 - Oxford Ladies v Birmingham 1
We were refreshed after our break and ready to take on the team that had beaten us 3-0 a couple of months earlier (the only team to do so). It started well, we were always slightly ahead and pulled further and further away in the second half to win the set 25-18.

The second set was a different story, both teams were head to head the whole time, with neither able to get away right until the very end. Birmingham got to 23 first but we were only 1 point behind. Sonia’s evil serve came to our rescue at the crucial time once again when she took the game from 24-24 to 26-24 to us.

Birmingham forgot how to play volleyball in the third set, in fact it looked similar to what happened to Derbyshire in the 4th set of the previous game. By match point time, Birmingham had 8 points so we weren’t quite panicking when their setter got her own serving run. The winning point was a set by Fede across to 2, which must have been so confusing they forgot what to do again. Score of the 3rd and final set: 25-15. (MVP Federica again, well done and well deserved)

Check out the league table!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Another step closer to stay in League 1 for the Bulls !

Last training saw us leaving with a warm and comfy feeling that we could take on Spikeos 2...

This is what happened last Sunday if you were not at Headington Girls School!!

1st Game - Oxford Bulls Vs. Spikeos 2

Very clear instructions from Maite the coach: Play it simple! Recycle the ball and keep the flow going. Don't take risks and get warm first. She put on court Tomas, Seb, Luca, Simon (with his zombie red eyes...), Hanif & Adam - again myself entering on the middles as a libero.
We got the side out immediately after the first serve from Spikeos & secured a +2 advance. Spikeos kept on going fighting the points and changed the score from us in the lead 9-8 to them being in the lead 12-11. Fine tipping from Adam & consistent block drag from our middles made us stay in the race behind Spikeos: 18-17, 20-18, and finally 22-20 when Maite decided to take the first timeout to break the routine. It worked indeed and their next serve was out - 22-21. Next serve from Luca followed by a good rally concluded by a block from Simon - 22-22. Again Luca to serve, and Spikeos recycling the ball into a free ball. Good run up from Simon but Seb decided to try a 2nd ball, picked up nicely and attacked on the outside, picked up by Luca, and well finished on with a line shot touched out from Adam - 23-22. Spikeos took their timeout at this time. It didn't affect us - and we scored the next point again - 24-22 & Set Point !!!! Next point again, we recycle the ball well, but Spikeos force us to make a mistake, and we are now at 24-23. On the next point, Adam from Spikeos strongly challenged at the net with Simon and unfortunately won - 24-24 and Sudden Death !!! Top spin serve from Spikeos picked up and attacked, Spikeos recycle the ball nicely, and we are - again - having a good rally. But this time we force one of their players to penetrate under the net - 25-24!!! Set Point!! Again!!! First attack from Spikeos picked up by Seb, Hanif to set, and Adam to attack, but recycled by Spikeos, then Luca to receive their attack, Seb to set and Adam to finish strongly with a diagonal kill: 26-24!!!
No change on the team on court.  A slightly more ectic start seing an immediate lead of Spikeos 4-0, but we piked it up very quickly, even getting in the lead 13-10(timeout from Spikeos at 11-8). Adam kept showing all his moves at the net, and the entire team looked strong with some good pickups and no panic when having to perform a disaster recovery. It probably was the turning point of the game, as we increased our lead up to 15-11, but Spikeos hadn't given up. They regathered and reduce the advance up to 18-15 and showed some good moves, and caught back up to 19-18... As mentionned in a previous report, you may know that sometimes we break under pressure. But not this time: secured serves, strong defence & decisive hits & tips lead to a secured 23-21. A couple more serves from Tomas and we had our victory.
Adam obtained the MVP title when he showed to everyone he was defintly on fire.

And for those who want to put some images on this game, I invite you to follow this link to the videos uploaded on Spikeos' website - Courtesy of Spikeos! > Set 1 > Set 2 (Partial unfortunately...)

2nd Game - Oxford Bulls Vs. Spikeos 1

Friendly game in which we did well, even though it was not possible to beat the current runner's up of the league. 25-18, 25-21.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

More wins for the Bulls !!

Again, late report, but it is for the good!
The Bulls went to Newbury on the 09th February to face Basingstoke & Newbury Men (Friendly).

1st Game - Basingstoke Vs. Oxford Bulls

On this day, Jon had agreed to coach the team, and we meet him at the sports hall. After a 20 minutes warm up, the team on court is Seb (setter), Adam & Luca (outsides), Simon & Anders (middles) and Ben (opposite), with myself replacing the middles as libero.

A very big start from our master server Seb puts us in a comfortable lead 7-0: it felt that Basingstoke needed a few more minutes to warm up... And they did! They slowly caught back points after points up to 10-8. At this time unfortunately Anders - slightly injured - had to be swapped for Tomas - already injured previously. But this change made us re-focus on the game and we increased our lead again up to 14-9, and then 17-12. This time, Adam was serving and managed (with the help of the team of course...) to bring us to a comfortable 24-13 (Basingstoke used their 2 timeouts at 21-13 & 23-13). We got slightly scared when Basingstoke started reducing the the point difference (and we were probably expecting that they would make a mistake but they didn't), but Jon decided to put Hanif on court replacing Luca and we finally managed to secure the last & needed point to win the first set 25-19.

All this drama... Us with low momentum... Them with high momemtum... And here we are in the second set, already lead 8-3 after 3 rotations. The only change from the finishing team was Anders back on court. Jon took a timeout to make us refocus, but things carried on not going well: 16-8. Normally, at this stage, our team panics and everyone starts making mistakes. Some people would say it didn't happen this time! We started catching back point after points, picking up more balls, scoring points directly instead of pushing the ball on their side, reducing slowly their advance: 18-10, 19-14, 21-19 (they took their first tactical timeout), 23-20... And Anders served 4 times allowing us to reach the Famous Sudden Death 24-24!!They scored 1 point, we caught back, we scored 1 point and they caught back: 26-26!! Final 2 serves from Adam finally allowed us to celebrate our first victory in 2 sets straight!

Our little Ben got the MVP title, granted for his accurate, consistent & sneaky cross shots.

2nd Game - Newbury Mens Vs. Oxford Bulls

Not a lot to say: It was a friendly game but we won it. Only good things for the future !!

See you all this coming Sunday for the next game in Headington !!!