After a thoroughly dispiriting home performance against long-time rivals London Malory, Docklands had a full three weeks to stew until their next on-court appearance against fellow newcomers to Super 8s action Essex Blaze.
Team Essex came into the game winless in five competitive outings, but Richmond Docklands were well aware of the young side’s ability augmented by their rigorous coaching and training regime.
The question for Essex seemed to be when, not if, they would get their first victory of the season and a ring-rusty Richmond Docklands walked straight into a punch that left the side nursing their second successive league defeat.
A quick start in the first set at the freezing Chelmsford venue give Richmond Docklands an early lead but any thoughts of a walkover were soon dispelled by a spirited Essex fightback. An early timeout seemed to settle the home side’s nerves and constant service pressure seemed to unsettle the normally stout Docklands passing unit.
Undue pressure on Docklands’ young setting supremo Javier Bello left the England youth starlet with too much to do and in truth the first set score of 25-22 to Essex flattered the visitors.
Richmond Docklands were stuck in a rut to be sure, and throughout the second set were perhaps guilty of either trying to hard to solve team problems with individual actions, or a stasis bordering on rigor mortis in the face of the Essex onslaught.
Put simply, Essex Blaze were on a roll and could scent the first victory of the season. Once momentum was behind the young side, Richmond Docklands were rendered practically powerless to respond.
The second set followed much the same of the first, Essex picking off the odd point here or there, with Docklands making no real sustained push for points. Compounded over a set to 25, Docklands soon found themselves with far too much to do and bowed out meekly having failed to pass 20 points themselves.
With all options exhausted, and having already surrendered a crucial point, Richmond Docklands tried to wipe the slate clean and start the third set with renewed vigour. However, seasoned volleyball observers will know all too well that it’s incredibly difficult to flick a switch and pretend the two previous sets never happened.
Yet Richmond Docklands made a far better fist of the third, and ultimately final, set even taking a lead far into the teens. But Essex had tasted two sets’ worth of victory already and with renewed confidence pushed the Docklands passing unit to breaking point again.
Chances to capitalise on opposition mistakes and take control of the set were plentiful in the third set but they came and went repeatedly for Docklands.
When the final point was scored to give Essex their maiden Super 8s victory it was clear to all that it wasn’t to be Docklands’ day.
Head coach Luis Bello commented after the match: “We congratulate Essex but we can’t shy away from the fact that this is a really disappointing result for all of us – players, coaches – the whole club.
“We haven’t been helped by a number of two and three-week gaps in the schedule that have seen us struggle to gain and sustain any rhythm to our play, but no amount of rhythm would have helped us today. We simply didn’t turn up.
“While it’s true that we are a completely new team and have only played five matches together – and often without our full complement of players – but I have challenged the players to return to the court with the passion, skill, and desire to win I know they all have.
“I will be expecting a much-changed performance against Sheffield.”
Richmond Docklands next Super 8s match is this Saturday in Richmond at Christ’s School against Sheffield. First serve is at 15:00.