With Roses finely poised at 51-42, York’s fortunes received a boost when eight of the twelve points on offer in the men’s, women’s and mixed volleyball went to the home side.
The female volleyball team started brightly with Kana Umeda’s defence ensuring every Lancaster attack was repulsed and captain Jess Toale ruthlessly punishing some poor serving. York were dominating at 24-19 in the first set when controversy erupted.
A collision between two Lancastrian players led to one being unable to continue. As Lancaster had no substitutes they were forced to concede, but, sportingly, the sides played on, six against five. This enormous inequality stimulated a Roy of the Rovers style comeback, with the Lancastrians going on to win the next three sets 25-16, 25-9 and 25-21.
With nothing at stake, York shuffled their squad and eased their playing intensity. Lancaster meanwhile, exhibited great competitive zeal, and, to the away fans’ delight, recorded a result that was nigh on unbelievable in the circumstances.
The men’s teams were, on paper, closely matched. Volleyball president Michael Ghelfi explained: “It should be very close, whilst we came second in our BUSA table, they got to the Student Cup finals.” Like two lions facing off over territory, the first set was a trial of strength as both teams tried to smash winners.
After the Lancastrian behemoth roared to a 25-18 victory, York struck back to take the next two sets 25-19 and 25-23. Based upon Stuart Leslie’s impenetrable blocks and Sunny Kuok’s pinpoint winners, York dominated and looked on course for victory.
However, despite leading throughout, York were unable to kill off the fourth set, going down 25-21. As tension mounted, York wilted 15-8 in the cauldron-like atmosphere – a result which was harsh upon a team that had matched Lancaster throughout.
The mixed team went into Sunday’s match looking to widen the chasm in the overall Roses score. Their greater cohesion and sound tactics created a stranglehold on the game as they took the first two sets 25-20 and 25-9.
York’s slick serving routines from Roman Ashauer contrasted with the calamitous Lancaster performance, whose lacklustre players frequently went for the same ball or left it to each other. Despite the third set being closer at 25-21, York exhibited a ruthless killer instinct – one that had been sorely lacking the night before.
Speaking afterwards, AU maestro Stuart Leslie was delighted at the crushing mixed victory and vital eight points picked up in volleyball; a jewel in Leslie’s crowning achievement of a Roses victory.
Philip Worthington – Sports correspondent