University of Leeds 0 – 3 Sheffield Hallam
Leeds’ brave women’s volleyball recorded their first loss of the season at yhe Gryphon Sports Centre, leaving their conquerors from Sheffield Hallam as the sole remaining unbeaten side in the division.
The game started off evenly matched, with the agility of Irmak Gökçesu and pacey setting of Catherine Laffan serving the Gryphons as well as it has all season, and even managed to open up the first set to 13-10 following a series of mistakes from the visitors. After a number of mistakes of their own, however, alongside play which utilised the strength of the experienced Sheffield side, they found themselves winning only one of the following seven points to make it 14-16. Though their opponents were made to work for the set, this deficit was to prove unassailable, and at the end of a long rally mostly fought out close to the net, Sheffield closed it out 22-25.
The second set started out more positively for the home side, with some very impressive play, coinciding with a dip in form (and perhaps some complacency from their opponents) resulted in them winning four of the first five points. Things took a turn for the worse, however, when Sheffield seemed to identify their advantages over Leeds in terms of strength and net play, and won seven consecutive points to open up a 7-12 lead.
The home team never really got back into it after that, despite an apparent lack of control of the volleyball from the leading side, and again utilising their powerful serves and spikes that became a hallmark of their play, went on to win the second set 17-25.
Though they showed composure and resilience in the early parts of the game, the belief seemed to largely be gone from the Gryphons by the time the third set began, and this was reflected in the 0-8 lead Sheffield managed to attain in the early stages. Following a series of errors from both sides, with serves and rallies alike frequently ending up in the net, Sheffield once again used their overwhelming strength over a tiring Leeds side to make sure the result was never really in doubt. Frequently forcing the West Yorkshire side to the floor and beating them at the net, they secured victory in this vital game in the division with a 15-25 win in the set. Leeds’ play in the earlier parts of the game may have warranted a scoreline more flattering than 0-3, but the hardworking visitors were unforgiving in their efforts to dismiss them and secure their place at the head of the table.
Featured image: The Gryphon