UNIVERSITY OF YORK FIRSTS 3 vs. UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER FIRSTS 0
BUCS League (Men’s Volleyball) Northern Conference 1A, Wednesday 3rd December 2008
York gained a satisfying victory over adversaries Manchester yesterday, in the process vanquishing a straight sets defeat in the return fixture earlier this season with a whitewash of their own on home territory. Outstanding displays from Italian ‘demolition duo’ Luca Accorsi and Pietro Galli formed the nucleus of a 25-15, 25-21, 25-23 triumph, York’s fourth of the league season.
Captain Jack Butcher, the only Englishman in a uniquely cosmopolitan team, labelled the win “fantastic” and warmly praised the team for exacting revenge on a Manchester side who had turned York over in their last meeting. With the three points collected, York draw level with their north-west opponents in the standings, having acquitted themselves well to the testing environment of BUCS League 1A.
Reshuffling the pack from last week’s 3-0 victory against Sheffield University, the hosts gave opportunities to fringe players and the injection of new talent paid dividends. The team started brimming with confidence and surged into an authoritative early lead through a lively balance of delicate net taps, notably from experienced Pole Albert Maruszozuk, and brutal smashes, usually from Janis Koknevics.
The fearless commitment of Butcher proved infectious and he was unfailingly in the right place throughout, showing an intelligent reading of proceedings. Manchester struggled to assert any kind of fluid rhythm and they certainly didn’t utilise the 6ft 7in frame of Anton Baulkin to full potential. Their staccato play left plenty of ‘free balls’ which suited York’s setting strengths, particularly with Accorsi, who played semi-professional volleyball in his native country, uncompromising in converting moves into hard points. This combination of experience and a creeping frustration amongst their opponents allowed York to wrap up the first set.
An audacious nudge over the net from Butcher marked the start of the second set, as again York capitalised upon Mancunian hesitancy to grasp the early advantage again. By the middle of this set, it was becoming apparent that Accorsi was dictating play, producing some amazingly powerful smashes, while a mixture of serves – including some devious short length deliveries from Maruszozuk – were swinging the pendulum in York’s favour. Manchester produced some nice flourishes to stay in touch, but couldn’t avert a 21-25 scoreline.
The third set offered the greatest entertainment, with York storming back from an early deficit to wrap up the points in imperious style. Initially, it looked as though Manchester would stretch the game beyond its three-set minimum, but they failed to play to strengths or communicate effectively enough. Koknevics showed some lovely shots before being replaced, temporarily, by Jerome Michaux, while the reintroduction of 35 year-old maestro Galli helped claw back the set.
The stark truth remains that volleyball is as much psychological as it is physical and once Manchester’s lead had been wiped out, they crumbled rapidly. Koknevics showed adequate sangfroid on the serve to close out the victory in a thrilling series of points and York represented excellent value for their victory.
Speaking to Nouse afterwards, Captain Butcher commented, “At the end there, it was hard to keep up the intensity. It’s the first time we’ve come back from being behind in a set, which I’m pleased about.” The team will be aiming for a hat-trick of wins when they travel to Sheffield Hallam next Wednesday.
York line-up: 1. Jack Butcher (c), 2. Janis Koknevics, 12. Josh Chipman, 9. Jon Stammers, 5. Lucas Thoeni, 10. Albert Maruszozuk, 6. Luca Accorsi, 11. Pietro Galli, 4. Jerome Michaux
Manchester line-up: 3. Pietro Leardis, 6. Andrew Railton, 7. Zangxu Han, 8. Alexis Augaistis, 2. Philip Hayward, 12. Anton Baulkin (c)