Thursday, March 24, 2016

A crucial match for the Bulls...

Lo and behold, brave people of the Oxenfurt, and draw in the tales of the Bulls on their foray onto territories uncharted, by which I mean of course their frivolous expedition to the hamlet of Avoidrelegationwithtwomoregamestospare (must be Welsh, by the name of it).

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Britannia, pragmatic as always, has opted for instant gratification this weekend and simply turned her attention towards the sports she’s actually any good at (rugby and cricket it seems) and has left it to the tired and poor, the huddled masses and the wretched refuse of her teeming shore to defend the honour of her green and pleasant lands on the battlefields of volleyball. A vance made up of mercenaries from Poland (Marcin S. and Arthur), France (Seb, Simon and Chichi), Afghanistan (Jomaeh), South Africa (Corne - although he’s a bit of a turncoat as he’s now also wearing the Union Flag on his boxers) and Switzerland (Dan) travelled to Maiden Erlegh to face off with the two teams trailing them at the bottom of Div 1. Spikeos 2 were breathing down the Bull’s necks, for a victory today would have presented them with the opportunity to overtake Oxford on the league table. Threatened once again by the Damocles Sword that is the relegation triangle, the stakes were all too clear - victories were needed to fend off the usurpers and pad our lead over the trailing bloodhounds to an unassailable level. It would only be the first time ever for the Bulls that we don’t have to save our skins in the final triangular of the league.

I could now go on and on about the epic turn of events that unfolded in front of the eyes of our noble and loyal supporters (Sam and Ania S.), but after a certain M. Buckley esquire has ruined it all for us by setting the bar to an impossible height, I’m just going to leave you with the briefest of summaries. (after all, you have to pick your battles)

The first match against Basingstoke, who were still lusting after the first win of the season, was    handled confidently by putting pressure on the serve and putting their receivers on the back foot, and by managing to soak up the damage by their new Polish mercenary in our block. By out-Polishing them 2:1 we managed to win the game in straight sets (25:13, 25:14, MVP: Arthur Kwiecinski - many thanks for helping us out!).

What followed was an unexpected win by Basingstoke - who were reduced to 5 players after an ankle injury early in the first set - over Spikes 2 in a tense tie-break finale. This not only gave them a commendable first victory of the season (well done chaps!), but also somewhat played in our hands because it deprived Spikeos 2 of valuable points in their chase (commiserations, chaps!).

The final and decisive match against Spikeos 2 started with a bang of Marcin S hammering down 10! jump-serves in a row on the unsuspecting victims. Tears were abound, as of an exploding pressure cooker. (Luckily he then decided to stop because we all know what happens at 12 successive serves…) At this point we decided that our coach Maïté was looking way too comfortable (there was a complete absence of any symptoms of cold sweat, and this just won’t do at a Bulls game), so we decided to start faffing about somewhat and keep the competition open. The net was clearly giving us that look, you know, and promptly got the spanking it deserved! We’ve left Maïté dangling in limbo for a while from 12:12 to 17:17, by which time we took pity on her and finished the first set 25:17. The second set was much the same, unspectacular maybe, with some moments of madness as Maïté tried to persuade Marcin not to wallop every ball as if there was in fact a non-negligible chance that quantum-tunnelling speed through the net could eventually be achieved, but with another 6 point breach opened up on Jomaeh’s serve we managed to cruise home 25:14. MVP was Marcin Swiderski, and well deserved so!

So new grounds for the Bulls who can go into the last triangular of the season with ease of mind (and, dare I say it, maybe even fancy dress?).

But of course the deeper lesson here is that if Britannia doesn’t fancy the prospect of being paraded around the battlefield of volleyball with her knickers around her ankles, then she better not screw up the upcoming European referendum! ;-)
By anonymous

Monday, March 7, 2016

Bullox in dramatic bid for a first win of the season!

Another weekend and another roller coaster ride for Team Bullox!  What a story it is to tell, and due to my rather verbose style I suggest you stick the kettle on, make yourself a good cup of Earl Grey tea and settle in for an intensive session of bed time reading...

Coach Luca has had a tough season.  It can't be easy on the sidelines, watching us show glimpses of awesomeness here and there, only for those moments to be rudely interrupted by several moments where we lack finesse and generally make a right balls-up of a few things, causing a pained look of disappointment to cross his face that cuts right through to the heart of every team mate.  And yet through all of this internal torture and anguish, he remains incredibly upbeat and positive (maybe it's the dog biscuits that we feed him during warm up), and thus we were all determined to do Coach Red-Bull proud today and try and obtain our first win of the season!

Team news and, well, I can only liken it to a shepherd and his flock.  Shepherd Luca sent his young volleyball lambs skipping out onto court as if it were a lush green field on a sunny spring morning.  Myself (Matt B), Matt Smith, Jon Woodhams, Ivan and Jake were all charged up and ready to go.  But in support today of the skipping lambs were two gnarled up ewes sporting generous horns and deeply furrowed brows, yes Jon and Neil were in tow to provide a crucial spine of experience down the side, for which we were all extremely grateful.

Now then, up first were Newbury.  Who in short are jolly good, and they were certainly a class above Team Bullox.  We battled on, good moments here and there, but alas the result was never in doubt.  Something like 25-12 and 25-10 losses were unfortunate, but it had at least provided a super little warm up for the match that was about to follow...

... against Reading Aces!  Now these guys had also looked a bit out-classed by Newbury earlier in the day, so we rather fancied our chances.  Off we went, and now then, what was this?  We were ahead in a match, and not doing too badly either!  Coach Red-Bull's incessant mantra of "Guys guys, we need a good first pass" was finally showing through in our play, and we knew things were going well when Reading called a time-out with the score 11-6 to us, an occurrence not often seen in a Team Bullox match.   

Once the kleenex had been passed round and the nose-bleeds had stopped, on we pressed.  Reading were slowly closing the gap, but on we plugged, a few nice hits here and there, a couple of lovely tips thrown into the mix, some interesting attempts to find the corners, and the usual sprinkling of boo-boos in the form of shanked passes and missed serves.  Oopsie...  nevertheless here we were with Reading calling another time-out at 23-19 to us, their last roll of the dice to put us off.  Did it work?  No!  Nice serves by Neil and Ivan saw the pressure immediately on Reading, and we ground out the final points to take the first set 25-21.

Mamma-Mia!  Coach Spaniel Luca was bounding around so happily on the sidelines that we had to take him out into the car park and throw a ball for him to chase just to calm him down.  Once the ball (and Luca) had been retrieved and things were back to normal, he imparted some more pearls of wisdom and off we went to set 2.  And a right arse clencher it was looking like being in terms of excitement, both teams matching each other serve for serve, with both teams' scores tripping over each other, 7-6 to Reading at one point.  Alas things suddenly started to unravel faster than a set of new-born kittens playing with a ball of wool.  Footwork got a bit leaden, passing arms tensed up a bit, and you know when setter Matt Smith is having to visit all four corners of the court to keep things going, things 'aint looking too rosy.  Time-out sensibly called by Coach Red-Bull.  More wise words, and a bit of extra experience and wisdom added to the mix by Jon Williams.  He's been here many times before, and he had that shifty glint in his eye that you often see at training sessions - you know, the look of a man who'd shake your hand with his right arm whilst pinching your wallet from your back pocket with his left arm.  He meant business, and by the end of the talk, so did we!

And it only went and ruddy worked!  We clawed the gap back to not too many behind, so much so that Reading got a sudden bout of the jitters, and called their own time-out at 15-13 to them.  More soothing words from Coach Red-Bull, and off we went again... tension rising on the sidelines from our adoring army of, err, 4 fans, and Maïté was doing her best impression of a town crier yelling into a megaphone inside a megaphone inside another megaphone, hoping that deafening Reading Aces and causing several severe bouts of tinnitus to the opposition would do the trick for us.  17-19 down... 20-23 down... squeaky bums all round... but suddenly 23-23!  Luca's arse had closed right up by now, he was doubled over in agony, willing us over the finishing line.  But we couldn't do it, a gutting 23-25 loss.  Match tied at 1-1.  Wowzers...

Deciding set, and a tasty best-of-15 ding-dong was ahead of us.  And we were not doing the blood pressures of the spectators any good whatsoever, 7-7 at one stage causing Reading to take a time-out.  Pressure getting to them?  It didn't work, 8-7 to us and a switcheroo of ends...

Cometh the hour, cometh Team Bullox!  I may take the piss, but Neil and Jon showed their class many times today, some excellent moments from them.  But it was far from their show, let me tell you.  Jake had contributed very well earlier in the day, but with his injured hand he provided staunch support from the sidelines, meanwhile Matt Smith set some delicious balls to all players, a few of which Jon Woodhams, usually known as "The Spluttering Cannon" absolutely middled and knocked into next week, and if any Reading players had dared to get in the way then their side of the court would simply have resembled a multi-vehicle incident on the M40.  Meanwhile Ivan and I were having some good moments as middles, a number of crucial blocks at times combined with a few nice winning power hits and some cheeky tips to keep the scoreboard ticking.  Wowzers, check out the score!  14-8 to us!  Surely we would win?  Surely?  14-9, 14-10, 14-11.... oh-oh, surely we wouldn't throw this away?  Coach Luca's arse showed no signs of re-opening...

Then finally!  A Reading mis-hit sailed high and far, and several Bullox vocal chords bellowed "OUT OUT OUT".  Fortunately Jon Woodhams let the ball go harmlessly by rather like a Test cricketer leaving a ball pitched outside his off-stump. The final score 15-11, and a 2-1 WIN TO TEAM BULLOX!!!!  Beating Reading Aces may not be much to the rest of you, but for us it was a mighty fine achievement, well played everyone! :-)    

Written by Matthew Buckley.