Sunday, January 22, 2012

Oxford Mixed - Great Games & Good Results !

Good evening all,
Just writing after coming back from Queen's Mary College in Basingstoke where the Oxford Mixed team played its 4th fixture against Spikeopaths 2 & Basingstoke.

1st Game - Spikeopaths 2 Vs. Oxford Mixed
After a long drive, a "Bang On Time" arrival and a short warm up, Spikeos & Oxford were ready to fight. Our team on court was Cornelius, Annika, Simon, Annette, Kerstin & myself. Good start from both teams but better succes for Spikeos (7-2 for Spikeos and then 10-9 after forcing us to take a timeout), but we finally made the break at this point by getting our confidence and clean playing back and we were in the lead 21-15. But Spikeos fought every point without fear and closed the gap (23-21). Our mindset for win was there, and we managed to finish the first set ahead 25-22.
For the second set, Helen was now replacing Annette and we got a stressfull start with a comfortable +8 points on the board for Spikeos 15-7 and one timeout used for Oxford. We then started getting points back and reduced the advance to +4 (23-19). But again Spikeos showed their strength at the end, not giving up any balls and this time won the second set 25-20.
And we were now ready for the 3rd set... Felipe replaced Cornelius & Annette was back on court replacing Annika. Everything had to be done again. But the alchimy worked once again. We played basic, clean, defensive but with strong finishes and we got the side changing ahead (8-5). After this point, we had only 2 servers: Felipe served 3 goods in a row (9-5) and then Annette finished the set without letting anything (15-6)... And this is another 3 points for the Oxford Mixed Team !! The MVP title went to Kerstin for her nice work at the net & her general and permanent reliability.

2nd Game - Basingstoke Vs. Spikeopaths 2
I will write a bit about this one as the game was really nice to watch, both teams providing a "nice to watch" level of volleyball. A special thought for one of the girls of Spikeos who had to come off court after injuring her wrist. It was again a tough game in 3 sets. And if I am right (and don't laugh as I was second ref & Kerstin 1st Ref...) I think Basingstoke won. But I will check it when the BVA updates the results...

3rd Game - Basingstoke Vs. Oxford Mixed
This time the initial team on court was Felipe, Annika, Corne, Annette, Helen & myself. We lost the first service but won it back straight and added up the points up to a comfortable lead 12-7. But pressure catched us back and we were now blocked in one rotation, not managing to pick up the ball or finishing it. And Basingstoke made an impressive come back and took the lead with 16-13. We fought a few more point but they were definitly stronger than us at the end of the set, finishing with a nice advance 25-20...
Right... The only way to win this is now 2 sets in a row... Everything had to be done for it. Simon and Kerstin were back again on court, replacing respectively Felipe & Annette. We lost the first point on reception but got the second, allowing then Annika to serve 8 winning points in a row (9-2) !! We fought every point, fearing Basingstoke to come back. But this time, there was no errors from our side, continuing scoring points after points and finally winning the second set 25-13.
We amost had to stop the game at this point as it was 3:10 and we were supposed to give the Hall back at 3:00 pm. But the Sport Center allowed us to finish the game up to 3:30, which we did !!
I decided not to change the lineup this time as the team on court was in a good mindset. The start of the set was tough, both team fighting well (6-6) including a strong block of Kerstin against the main hitter of Basingstoke, but Basingstoke won the court change 8-6 and scored again another point before we finally got the service back (9-7). And Helen boosted us by getting 4 services in a row. And we were now ahead 11-10. Everyone thought "No time to wait to get the service back...". But this is exactly what Basingstoke was thinking as well and ... it was again a tight 12-12 score. At this point, we had to make the difference. One serve ... In ... Rally ... POINT for Oxford ! Second service for me, same scenario... And again a third time making us win the 3rd set and game 15-12 !! Annika got the MVP title this time for her nice work at the front putting their defense in difficulty and her service spree.

Again, I think the whole team enjoyed playing against Basingstoke & Spikeos as the level of paying was high, and the fairplay was on court. I'm sure they will be up for a revenge soon ...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Men 2 pick up an important victory

Oxford Men's Team 2 have done themselves a favour this weekend and have strengthened their current ranking in the league by beating Basingstoke Lions - their direct contestants for 5th rank - in straight sets. But I'm getting ahead of the story already, so let me begin from where it all starts...

The team of Sam, Ghislain, Vivien, Simon, Richard, David, Dan and libero Sebastien were off to Basingstoke on Sunday 15 January to face Spikeos and the home team.

First match, Oxford 2 v Spikeopaths: Spikeos, currently battling it out with Oxford Men's 1 over the league victory, are always a tough opponent to face because of their consistent team performance. The same proved to be the case this time, but we didn't lag behind by much, finally conceeding by 16:25, 16:25. MVP for this game was Richard, who scored some nice hits against a good defence. I would say we played reasonably well during this much, but there were a couple of stretches where we made mistakes that prevented us from a closer score or even a potential set for our records. Nevertheless, we felt that the potential was there on this day and that, if we pulled ourselves together, we would be in a position to give any team a run for their money.

Second match, Basingstoke v Spikeos:
We then had to referee before the all important game against the Basingstoke Lions. At this time, it is worth pointing out that the reffing duties were dealt with in a very professional manner by two of our newly decorated officials Ghislain (1st ref) and Simon (2nd ref), who at no time gave away the fact that this was indeed their baptism of fire. Well done chaps! Now here is where the good part begins. Basingstoke put up a strong performance against Spikeos. The game was played fast and hard, and despite Spikeos winning by 25:17, 25:11, we knew we were in for a test. But hold on to your chairs, ladies and gents, this is going to be well paced.

Third match, Basingstoke v Oxford 2: To set the scene, it is worth recalling that Oxford 2 and the home team Basingstoke are close contestants for positions 5 and 6 in the league. Finishing 5th means a guaranteed Div 1 rank next year, whereas the 6th best will have to play the relegation triangle.

We started of the first set against Basingstoke strongly and quite quickly wrestled a five-point lead from the opponents. From there, the game went back and forth, but we managed to keep the lead and even build onto it up to a score of roughly 17:10 if I'm not mistaken. From then on the game picked up in intensity and Basingstoke were coming at us like Berserks, determined to reverse the fortune and successfully so, it has to be said, because our lead was quickly whithering as we felt the pressure and started to show our nerves. It was not uncommon for our team in the past to start strong and then give away the lead because we can't cope with leading a game very well. But fortunately this time we proved ourselves wrong and managed to bring home victory by 25:21. This I believe did us some tremendous good, because we now know that we can handle that kind of pressure if we have to.

The second set was then over incredibly quick. We pulled away again from the start and then somehow Basingstoke just faltered... We played up exquisitely if I dare say so, not making a single mistake as far as I can remember, picking up even the most ridiculous balls and playing them back hard at the Lions. Ghislain, who henceforth shall be know as The French Hulk, hitting some particularly demoralising power spikes through 2 and thus securing MVP for this game. In the end, we took the set 25:4 and left with a sense of elation.

Special mention to the MVPs, the refs, our new libero Seb, David's premiere as an outside attacker, but also generally to the whole team because everyone has been playing really well and was standing up with great commitment to the pressure both mentally and physically (ever heard of the expression "pants on fire"? My short actually melted in a dive, I kid you not!)

So all in all a very good weekend for Oxford Mens 2, who manage to maintain rank 5 in the league, but who are now just as close to 4th place than we are to 6th place, which makes it quite clear which direction we shall be facing from now on... :-)

(written by Dan)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Men's 1 continue winning run in 2012!

On Sunday 8 January 2012, the Men's 1 team had their first league fixtures. Freshly back from the December and New-Year’s break a seven-strong team travelled in style to Aldershot to play the third and fourth team in the league: Maidenhead and Farnborough. Oxford team for the day, in estimated order of appearance: Jon, Rune, Martijn, Steve, Gabriele, Lukasz and Gérard.

First match against Maidenhead: They had some new faces in their team which worked well for them, as they took advantage of a few too many mistakes on our side. At times we played well, and we saved the best for last which was a little too late. Jon served a few aces and from 14-22 behind we came back to 21-24 only to lose the first set 21-25. We continued playing well at the start of the second set, although some inconsistency in most aspects of our game gave them the chance to stay in the set. At 16-16, Martijn served 5 times in a row to take the lead, and although we gave them a few more points to make it 24-22, we won the third set, 25-22. And so our first decider of the New Year. We gave them a two-point head start, but that was it. Only Jon, Gerard and Martijn served in the third set to win comfortably and deservedly 15-6, winning the match 2-1. MVP as voted by them: Jon!

Second match against Farnborough: We had beaten them twice already this season and were very keen to make it a hatrick. As we had a good ‘warm-up’ against Maidenhead, we got started straight away. They played their usual 1-2-3 formation at reception and 3-1-2 in defence. Our blocking was up to a high level and so they struggled to make their points, while we defended well. At 15-7 ahead, we continued at cruise control to win the set 25-15. As usual, the second set was a closer affair. Our blocking and defence remained good, and we were up one or two points most of the set. At 17-17, it went pretty much point for point and 24-24 we made the side out and, with some good work on the net, we won the next point to win 26-24 and the match 2-0. MVP as voted by them: Martijn!

(written by Martijn)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

First training sessions in the new year

Men 1 and 2
Men 1 and 2 have their first technical training on Wednesday 4 January from 8.30pm to 10.30pm at St Greg's.

Ladies 1 and 2
The ladies' technical training takes place on Monday 9 January from 7pm to 9pm at our new venue Oxford High School in Summertown.

Social Thursday trainings
Our first mixed social training is on Thursday 5 January from 8pm to 10pm at Headington Girls' School. The hall is then closed for exams, so the social sessions will start again on Thursday 9 February.

For more information about training sessions, see our club calendar

Men 1 Christmas Champions

On 18 December, Men 1 played their last matches of 2011 in Headington School Oxford. Let out to play for Oxford were Gérard, Jeremy, Jon, Martijn, Rune, Steve, Lukasz, Neil.

First match against Farnborough (also known as the team with the Polish twins): For this match, they had brought some of their female players, allegedly to put us off somehow. We got off to a flying start thanks to a good warm-up and focus (mainly on volleyball). Steve served 8 times in a row to get us 13-5 ahead. Farnborough got back to 14-10 and a time-out was in order to get everyone back playing normal again. From there, we continued our good level of volleyball with some fine blocking and ‘dig, set, spike’ all around. We closed off the set comfortably at 25-19. The second set saw the debut in the bva league for Lukasz. A usual slow starting second set gave Farnborough the lead. From 5-1 down to 6-5 up, we trailed again at 11-15. We then brought on our super-sub and turned things on again. Lukasz got into the swing of it and started to hit as we know he can. Some more blocking (including one from Jon) caused them big trouble. At 19-19, we scored 6 points against their 4 to win the second set 25-23 and the match 2-0. MVP as voted by them: Martijn.

Second match against Oxford 2: They wanted revenge from a few weeks ago, and they even called up a new libero to do so. We had a good start again, and took an early lead 8-4. Only for them to get back and taking advantage to finish some points gave them the lead 15-12. We traded points until at 18-20 behind, Jeremy served 7 points in a row, while his team mates blocked and finished the points to win us the first set 25-20. In the second set we changed things around a bit and it was a tight and at times a scrappy affair of Sunday evening volleyball. Oxford 2 was up 1 or 2 points for most of the match until 18-18. We went ahead 20-18, only to let them come back and ahead to 20-21, then 21-21, 22-21, 22-22, 24-22, 24-24, 25-24, 25-25, 27-25! Second set and match is ours 2-0. Perhaps not the best match to watch by the crowd up in the stands, but certainly a nail-biter. One more Oxford 1 vs 2 clash left which is scheduled for 1 April (no joke). MVP as voted by them: Gérard.

(written by Martijn)

Sunday, January 1, 2012