UEL's Straight Set Win Over Oxford
UEL's Straight Set Win Over Oxford.
UEL women’s volleyball first team began life under new coach Jefferson Williams with a comfortable victory over Oxford at SportsDock on Wednesday afternoon.
The home side went into the match in second place, three points off the top yet nine points ahead of their opponents Oxford in third. With one defeat all season, that being at the expense of table-toppers Essex, UEL were in great shape to continue their push for the league title.
Oxford, who finished 2016 on the wrong end of a walkover, would close the gap on second place with a win but knew this would be a tough ask considering UEL’s performances thus far.
With the teams in position the match got underway, with UEL in their deep blue strip asserting their dominance from the off. They took a 4-2 lead courtesy of Aubrie Cresswell’s tip over the net and a powerful spike from Krystyna Lyndovska.
Despite Oxford’s best efforts to find their feet in the match, UEL gathered some momentum as the gap between the two sides continued to grow. UEL found themselves 13-6 to the good as captain Cara Olden hit a lethal spike plus a well-placed effort that just fell within the bounds, before Yvett Talas added her name to the score sheet.
UEL’s onslaught of points did not let up, Lyndovska won a series of points which contributed significantly to UEL taking the first set 25-17. The opening set appeared very comfortable for the hosts, who showed great attacking threat and confident blocking from the front row. Oxford were down by a set, but they certainly weren’t out at this stage.
With the second set came glimpses of an Oxford fight back, as they took a 4-3 lead in the opening exchanges. Unfortunately for the visitors this was short-lived, UEL wasted no time in reviving their first set dominance and surged into a 13-5 lead.
This came about via a brilliant cross-court spike from Kelsey Blankerts, and another Cresswell tip over the net. UEL had completed a succession of 11 straight points before Oxford won back a point, and subsequently the serve.
The remainder of the second set took a very similar path to that in the first, UEL earning themselves a healthy 22-13 lead. To get there, Blankerts, Cresswell and Olden scored further points to add to their personal tallies, whilst Beth Gunter also got in on the scoring act.
Oxford showed good spells of play themselves in this set. Jamie Shenk put Oxford into double figures, whilst Carola Hernandez Cappas scored twice in trying to keep UEL at bay. They couldn’t prevent UEL taking a 2-0 lead however by 25-13, after Cresswell’s smash was deflected out and the possibility of a straight set victory became more likely.
In the third set, Oxford took the first point which was vital in what was a must-win set for them to stay in the game. However, UEL sniffed the opportunity to complete a straight set rout and daylight began to emerge between the two sides, with Talas and Lyndovska continuing to add points to the board.
Jefferson Williams appeared most active on the side-line in the third set, perhaps eager to see the game out but credit must be awarded to Oxford who were not going down easily. This was echoed by Deborah Malden who produced a great block with UEL leading 8-7.
From 16-12, Blankerts, Olden, Lyndovska and Talas edged UEL closer to the magic 25 points needed to win the match. However, Oxford were certainly making UEL work for the victory and continued to peg back points to try and reduce their deficit. However, this was to no avail as an Oxford serve went long putting the score at 25-17 giving UEL a 3-0 victory. UEL finished 2016 with a straight-set win, and began 2017 in the same fashion. New coach Jefferson Williams could not have hoped for a better start to his tenure. His side were impressive as a collective, but there were stand-out individual performances also with the likes of Cresswell and Lyndovska having a very good game.
Oxford produced glimpses of well worked play, scoring good points and frustrating UEL at times with their reluctance to give in. However, they gave UEL too much breathing space in the opening two sets, meaning they had a mammoth task on their hands to get back into the match. Up next for UEL, they are back at the Sports Dock on Wednesday as they host Sussex on what will be ‘Big Blue Wednesday.’ This is a celebration of UEL’s sporting teams and their success, so there will be plenty of sporting action taking place on the day. For Oxford, they will be looking to bounce back as they entertain Cambridge.
Match report by Sam Few.