LEEDS gave the perfect send-off to Jen Hsien-Hsu with a comfortable 3-0 win over Lancaster seeing them remain top of the league.
Hsien-Hsu, who has offered six years of dedicated service to the club, couldn’t have wished for a better way to end his Gryphon career. The hitter, who has been in fine form this season, played an instrumental role once again to help secure his side’s victory.
The men in green went into their match buoyed by watching a dramatic finale to the women’s side game against Leeds Beckett. The team battled from two sets down to clinch a dramatic 3-2 victory over Beckett, setting the bar high for the men to follow.
Captain Nigel Sibanda, despite nursing a shoulder injury, played the dual role of player-manager in the absence of the team’s coach and slammed down the first point of the match. Leeds dominated the opening exchanges and sped into a 10-5 lead, executing well-rehearsed shots and dummied jumps and forcing Lancaster to commit error after error.
A fantastic one-handed dive from Mo Bashar after fifteen minutes kept a rally alive for Christian Grimes to push over the net and secure a well-deserved point.
It was an emotional game for veteran Hsien-Hsu, who took a knock halfway through the first set when he accidentally collided with Basha, but remained unhurt. A series of slams from Sibanda, Wataru Iwai, and Savvas Anthis saw the Gryphons storm into an unassailable lead to clinch the first set comfortably 25-11.
Lancaster improved in the second set and proved much more of a match for Leeds. Hsu scored an ace near the start of the second set and the Gryphons continued to put pressure on Lancaster, although the visitors began to play with a lot more caution. A powerful slam from an opposition hitter levelled the set at 8-8, before Anthis grounded another strong cross-court slam, a feat that he performed countless times throughout the game. At 13-11, the set remained close, although the occasional wide serve and progressive net blocks meant that Lancaster kept the Gryphons on their toes.
Sibanda then acrobatically tipped the ball over the net beautifully to gain a three-point lead at 21-18, before two unforced errors from Lancaster meant that Leeds edged further away from their opponents before Hsu slammed down the winning point to claim the second set 25-21.
Lancaster had tired by the third set, with a series of misjudged serves allowing Leeds to capitalise and jump ahead yet again. A misjudged serve from Lancaster allowed them to gain a point, before a thumping slam from Basha put Leeds 6-5 in front. Anuar and Grimes combined well to produce a brilliant block and the recovery shot saw the Gryphons earn a point from almost nothing, before Hsu tapped a shot teasingly over the net when Lancaster were caught out of position.
The in-form Hsu, thoroughly enjoying his last game, scored a fantastic ace down the court at the start of the second phase after daringly tossing the ball up high, to the cheers of his fellow team-mates, before Anthis slammed down again to make it 19-11. Lancaster then served into the net, before a stinger from Anthis was thumped down the centre of the court. A fantastic block from Grimes ensued, before Lancaster grappled a point back. Leeds were playing for fun, trying to set the last final shots for Hsu, who, as a setter, is not usually supposed to score.
In the end, Leeds ran out winners 25-15 to stay top of the table and continue their fine form.
Featured image: Jack Roberts