York Men’s 1s volleyball team fell agonisingly short of Roses victory in front of a packed house in the York Sports Centre’s main arena. Led by Alexander Bowen (nicknamed ‘The Cat’), the White Rose triumphed in the second and third sets but, with the tie level at 2-2, threw away a substantial lead to lose the fifth and deciding set.
York started slowly, falling 6-1 down (first to 25) at the beginning of the first set as they initially struggled to get into points. Tight, even exchanges followed but York never recovered the deficit, and found themselves changing ends a set behind.
The second set went to the wire. York raced into 7-2 and then 11-5 leads, but were repeatedly pegged by some excellent Lancastrian defence to leave it poised at 24-24. Both sides had set points snatched away before Lancaster finally blinked first, losing a knife-edge set 28-26.
The spectators roared and groaned with every save and spike, but often relied on guesswork to determine the correct score. The scorecard was, understandably, directed towards the players and away from the stands, so the crowd buzzed with theories and predictions until the scorer sporadically held up the numbers, eliciting cheers and jeers from fans.
A far cry from the drama that preceded it, York steamrollered the third set with a glittering display of powerful hitting. Growing in confidence, York were passing, setting and spiking with increasing authority, racing to 6-2 and 14-7 leads. Despite more bodyline defending from Lancaster – one player literally kicked the ball back over the net – York pulled away and took the set at a stroll, 25-10.
As you might expect from the stature of the fixture, the game was played at high quality and lightning pace. Volleyball is one of York’s five focus sports, and Alex Bowen’s boys had been recently promoted to the second highest student league in the country. Inspired by the touchline urgings of York Sport President Isaac Beevor, the home side looked set for a predicted victory.
However, York have relinquished 2-1 leads before this season (most notably against Liverpool during their promotion push), and soon found themselves and renewed pressure from a re-invigorated Lancaster side. With the excitable crowd belting out KC and the Sunshine Band classics, York lost 4 straight points and lead in the mid-teens, and Lancaster clinched the set 25-22.
Final sets in volleyball are played to 15, and a series of exquisite put aways saw York into what should have been a comfortable 11-6 lead. But with Lancaster staring down the barrel, a series of errors in the face of characteristically steadfast Lancastrian defending saw Lancaster drag themselves back to 11-11. The momentum had shifted for the final time, and the Red Roses saw out the set and the match 15-12.