Manchester expose York’s weaknesses in men’s volleyball

York need to return to the drawing board after suffering another straight sets defeat, this time to a superb Manchester side, on Wednesday

Photograph by Justyn Hardcastle

Photograph by Justyn Hardcastle

UNIVERSITY OF YORK 0
UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER 3

BUCS League 1A – Wednesday 2nd December

There is nothing worse in sport than knowing that your team has a problem, but not being able to put your finger on it. This affliction seems to be affecting the men’s volleyball side, who find themselves looking back nervously over their shoulder at the BUCS League 1A relegation battle following another straight sets defeat.

They showed only glimpses of their potential on Wednesday, but, in truth, were out-thought and out-played by a clinical and fluid Manchester opposition. The 25-17, 25-12, 25-16 result launches Manchester back into the promotion shake-up with fellow volleyball powerhouses Leeds Met and Sheffield Hallam, but York are now stranded in a second tier alongside Hull and Liverpool Moores, teams which they should be beating comfortably. It’s an unedifying position for a York team who, in recent years, have proved time and time again that they can mix it with the big names in university sport.

The second set here seemed to neatly encapsulate the issues which need to be addressed. Manchester had engineered a sizeable advantage before York had even composed themselves, with the serve of Armando Alexandre and the finishing of Len Puhm causing difficulties. However, there was absolutely no communication from York, no mutual encouragement within the ranks – it was all too quiet. While the visitors loudly exclaimed ‘Guapa!’ after winning each of their many points, York’s voices were only heard once or twice a set.

Mens Volleyball v Manchester, 02-12-2009, Photo: Justyn Hardcastle

Michal Kovac’s smashes were one of the positives from York’s straight sets defeats to Manchester on Wednesday. Photograph by Justyn Hardcastle.

Manchester continued to expose York’s fragile confidence, with Pablo Hernández, their instrumental number four, finding space with every shot. He was outstanding throughout, launching his potent serves deep into York territory, then energetically manoeuvring himself to the net to convert. Alexandre was also effective with his serves, generating both power and distance, and the second set had soon been won with York, rather embarrassingly, having picked up only a dozen points. Fittingly, the decisive point arrived when Hernández send over a shot with such force it stung the palms of both Michal Kovac and Lukas Thoeni, who were powerless to stop it.

York had been better in the opening set, weathering a determined start by Manchester to stay firmly in contention. The serving of Joshua Chipman gave them structure and rhythm, as well as several consecutive points, while the powerful and inventive shot armoury of Jonas Pollex offered another positive. However, all-too-often, York were guilty of squandering opportunities – picking up a couple of points, then tamely delivering a serve into the net or letting themselves down with infringements or poor communication. You sensed that the home side had to be top of their game to trouble Manchester and, as more superb play from Hernández settled the set, they were not even close.

Mens Volleyball v Manchester, 02-12-2009, Photo: Justyn Hardcastle

York’s defensive work couldn’t halt Manchester, who won 25-17, 25-12, 25-16 to continue their own promotion challenge. Photograph by Justyn Hardcastle.

The third set was a formality, with York’s confidence shattered, although, once again, there were flashes of excellence. They stayed within two or three points thanks to Kovac’s shot selections, the hard work of Libero Thoeni and the persistence of Jan Vohryzek, but never assumed the lead. For Manchester, Puhm continued to be excellent, though his serve had dropped off, while Hernández continued to dominate. He would lie in wait, like a coiled cobra, before unleashing another well-placed shot which foxed the York players. It was Alkis Augoustis, a player who had flitted in and out of the match, who concluded proceedings with a great smash at the net, a nice end to a great Manchester display.

York need to return to the drawing board and work out what they are doing wrong. There might not be enough time before next Wednesday’s daunting trip to Sheffield Hallam but improvements are certainly needed before January’s critical fixtures against Hull and Liverpool John Moores, otherwise an under-par season could turn into a nightmare one.

York Line-up: 2. Janis Koknevics (c), 3. Michal Kovac, 12. Joshua Chipman, 11. Amedeo Santoro, 16. Thomas Brackpool, 15. Jan Vohryzek, 8. Jonas Pollex, 4. Rahul Konchi, 3. Lukas Thoeni (Libero)

Manchester Line-up: 2. Philip Hayward (c), 6. Len Puhm, 12. Alkis Augoustis, 8. Armando Alexandre, 10. Marek Wroblewski, 4. Pablo Hernández

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