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)

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