Richmond Docklands stormed into the semi final of the KO Cup with a confident display against Team BU Wessex. The semi final against Durham next month will be the first time since 2007 that Docklands have featured in the last four. On that occasion, Docklands went on to lift the trophy. Can they do it again?
Richmond Docklands started in buoyant mood and raced into a comfortable 8-2 lead. The return of Dan Westphal after two months away, along with an athletic display by Frenchman Flavien Hias, saw Docklands dominate the middle of court. Some solid passing from Panos Karagiannis and Noah Goalen allowed setter Javier Bello to run his offence with ease and Wessex had no answer. However, the home side slowly pegged back Richmond and errors started to creep into the visitors’ game. Wessex took full advantage to surge ahead in the later stages and take the first set 25-22.
Wessex maintained their momentum into set two and led 8-5 but Richmond Docklands didn’t panic and helped by two consecutive aces by Marcin Konpa, were ahead by one point at the second technical time-out. The scoreboard then turned back the way of Wessex, forcing coach Andy Hopper to call a time-out 18-20 down. Some clever hitting by Konpa and the ever versatile Karagiannis, saw the scores tied at 21-21; the set was back in the balance. The set then swung back in Wessex’s favour, 23-21 – time for another time-out. Hias stemmed the tide and then went back to serve three in a row to apply the pressure back on the home side. Wessex folded and it was left to Ben Lucas to dispatch the winning blow, 25-23.
Set three was a blocking master class from Richmond Docklands. Wessex found it harder to find a way through with Westphal, Hias, Javier Bello and even Karagiannis scoring kill blocks in a 25-18 third set win. Docklands were now one set away from the semi final.
At 13-7 up in the fourth set it looked like Richmond Docklands would coast into the last four but Wessex had other ideas. With the experienced Aden Tutton calling the shots and captain Matt Hunter providing a useful power outlet, Wessex clawed their way back into a 19-18 lead. It was now a case of who blinks first and after a deft tip from Konpa it was Wessex who lost their nerve. A hitting error gifted Docklands two match points. Wessex saved the first one but Konpa stepped up to blast the ball down the line and secure the match with a 25-23 fourth set win.
Black Knight: Panos Karagiannis