Hallam win has women’s volleyball dreaming of promotion

A 3-1 victory over Sheffield Hallam on Wednesday has turned BUCS League 2B into a promotion shoot-out between York and Newcastle

Photograph by Justyn Hardcastle

Photograph by Justyn Hardcastle

UNIVERSITY OF YORK 3
SHEFFIELD HALLAM 1

BUCS League 2B – Wednesday 2nd December

You won’t catch them admitting it in anything more than a quiet whisper, but this season is shaping up very nicely for the women’s volleyball team. A second successive win yesterday against Sheffield Hallam, without even approaching their best form, has already turned BUCS League 2B into a straight promotion shoot-out between York and Newcastle.

Also by their own admission, York spent most of the 3-1 win lost in an on-court daydream, but they were still far too strong for a visiting Hallam side who failed to capitalise on winning the second set. In a sport where psychological strength is a key factor, York weren’t daunted when the visitors stole this second 25-21, instead finding some of their best form to rouse from the stupor and take the third and fourth sets with a minimum of fuss.

The pattern had become familiar; York would start a set brightly and race into what appeared to be a safe lead, only to switch off and grant Hallam passage back into contention. Thankfully, the home side kept the capability to plunder a string of points here and there up their sleeve and were worthy winners.

Womens Volleyball v Hallam, 02-12-2009, Photo: Justyn Hardcastle

York were worthy winners against Sheffield Hallam on Wednesday and didn’t let the concession of a set affect them. Photograph by Justyn Hardcastle.

Although the team performance was solid, there were some noteworthy individual displays. Annelies Vredeveldt was usually behind these positive set openings, dominating at the net and responsible for finishing off several points in succession. Alexa Mitterhuber also excelled, particularly with her dangerous serve, which possessed an uncanny knack of dipping just over the net, while Captain Lucy Porter led by example, clinically finishing off a number of points at crucial moments. Anastasia Harunova also had a fine game in the Libero role, saving her team points on numerous occasions by skidding forward on her knees and repelling the ball.

With the score finely-balanced at 1-1, the tight third set tested these player’s abilities to the limit. After York’s early lead had been hauled back, it was the effective serve of Maiko Uesaki and the finishing of Porter which steadied the nerves and rebuilt the advantage. At one stage, Porter looped a shot which evaded the entire Hallam team, the ball curling beautifully to land millimetres inside the line.

Womens Volleyball v Hallam, 02-12-2009, Photo: Justyn Hardcastle

Lisa Breitschuh sets up a York attack during Wednesday’s 3-1 BUCS League victory over Sheffield Hallam. Photograph by Justyn Hardcastle.

After Mitterhuber had been frustrated a number of times by blocks to her shots from the setter position, it was Lisa Breitschuh, the former Captain, who finished the set in great style. With the ball pinging around, Hallam were prematurely calling ‘free ball’ as York struggled to work anything. In utter mockery of the Sheffield shout, the German proceeded to leap and smash the ball through their entire team, sealing the set 25-23.

The fourth set was similar, as York would pick up a succession of points, only to capitulate without warning and allow Hallam to reduce the deficit once again. However, with the score at 17-15 in York’s favour, it was the trusty combination of Porter and Uesaki which steered them home, the former converting at the net after the latter’s serve had shaken Hallam up. For all this efficiency in winning points, the decisive one was laborious. Hallam’s last stand consisted of some 50 strokes, with both Mitterhuber and Porter denied before York finally wrapped it up.

The claustrophobic nature of York’s division – there are only four teams, meaning just six matches – only increases their chance of success. But as Harunova said afterwards, the team are no longer fazed by the loss of a set, only more determined to make amends, and this bodes very well for their chances this season.

York Line-up: 6. Lisa Breitschuh, 10. Lucy Porter (c), 8. Selena Yeung, 4. Maiko Uesaki, 14. Alexa Mitterhuber, 11. Annelies Vredeveldt, 13. Anastasia Harunova

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