Less than 24 hours after doing the double over cross-London rivals Lynx, Richmond Docklands were back in action at the Kingston Arena against Essex Blaze.
With a strong coaching set-up in place and a team littered with talent, albeit of a more recent vintage than the hosts, Essex have improved immeasurably throughout their first season of Super8s volleyball.
It was against Richmond Docklands that Essex scored their first win of the season in early December, and they followed that up by besting London Malory at the same time Richmond Docklands were beating Lynx.
The two in form, but tired, sides lining up was already a mouth-watering prospect on paper. Add in the added spice of Richmond Docklands out for revenge and it had all the hallmarks of one of the matches of the season.
Although Richmond Docklands eventually ran out 3-1 winners, both teams played their part in a fantastic match.
Essex blitzed Richmond Docklands to open the match with their towering front line putting on a blocking display not seen in Super8s volleyball for some time. Although shaky reception didn’t help young setter Javier Bello to find solutions, it was through no real fault of the home side that they found themselves down 13-3 at one stage – yes, Essex Blaze were simply on fire.
With the winner of the first set all but decided inside the first 15 points played, the experienced Richmond Docklands players plotted a course to a better second set through raising their game towards the back-end of the first. Those in the magnificent Kingston Arena could feel the momentum starting to shift and although the first set score was 25-17 in favour of the visitors, it was clear Richmond Docklands were alive and firing again.
The second set was nearly a mirror of the first, except this time it was Bello’s boys building a quick lead of five points at the first technical timeout. Essex’s block was still neigh on impenetrable at times, but improved reception allowed Javier Bello to dictate terms; Richmond Docklands’ confidence grew with every sideout and soon the runs of two and three points built a significant advantage. Richmond Docklands claimed the second set 25-16.
Despite the third and fourth sets producing similar score lines in favour of the hosts (25-17, 25-18) the difference between the two teams wasn’t stark. The pace of the Essex attack, and the blocking display, was remarkable and suggest this team will continue to improve throughout the season. With just two points in the league table between Essex in seventh and Malory in fifth, Essex would surely be a tricky play-off opponent.
However, the plaudits and the points go to Richmond Docklands who, thanks to the six points won against Lynx and Essex, now find themselves third in the league table and just one point off second place having played a game less.
Captain Andrew Pink said, “It was clear when the fixtures came out that this weekend was always going to be a vital one for the team and we’re delighted to have passed those two stern tests successfully. Although some of us are well into the twilight of our careers, we have a plethora of young talent that is burning very brightly indeed.
“With the club chock full of successful age group teams, it’s simply essential that we have a successful first season in the Super8s to give the next generation a solid platform to build their own careers. The six points picked up against Lynx and Essex will go a long way towards that”.
Richmond Docklands return to Super8s action on Saturday 20th January at Kingston Arena against Team Wessex.
Black Knight v Essex: Dan Westphal
Docklands MVP v Essex: Javier Bello
Essex MVP: Jermaine Miles