It’s probably fair to say that Leeds Uni Men’s Volleyball went into their cup tie against Strathclyde at the Gryphon Sports Centre on Wednesday night as fair underdogs, as a team in the relegation zone of the Northern 1A league going against the all-conquering side that is currently top of the Scottish league. This didn’t really show early on in the game, however, as an evenly matched opening set really did go down to the wire. After speeding off into an 8-3 lead, Leeds looked largely in command of the opening exchanges of the match, before one mistake at the back led to a purple patch of Strathclyde’s own; they managed eight points on the trot to take charge 11-8. Though the home side went on to reclaim the advantage twice in the set, the visitors ended up taking it by 28 points to 26.
Throughout that first set, Strathclyde were far from helped by a series of incidents where they launched the volleyball into the wall of the sports hall, and therefore forfeiting a series of points. That element of their game was eliminated going into the second set, but Leeds made just as good a go at it, with a nip-and-tuck set ending up at 17-17 before the Scottish side went on to assert by 25 points to 19. They would perhaps have won the set slightly less convincing but for a series of foolish mistakes from Leeds when attempting to return serves. A talented side, they seemed to lack tactics, or, more basically, a plan, for much of this set. This was a departure from their precision earlier on in the match, and perhaps this mark the point where things started to unravel for the boys in green.
By this time, the writing really did seem to be on the wall for the Gryphons. They had given a good account of themselves against one of the strongest student volleyball sides in the country, in a game which seemed to be decided in the final few points of the first set. However, they were far from done with. For much of the second half of the game those of use in the sports hall wondered if we were about to witness an upset – a turnaround of magnificent proportions. After Leeds clawed back what looked set to be a consolation set, they used their agility, quick thinking and much improved tactical game to level things up at two sets apiece. They were a tired team by that decider, however, and it was Scots – the team with the momentum, who went on to win the day. Ultimately they were rewarded Strathclyde with a semi-final tie against Liverpool. Well cut-off within the relegation zone in the league, it will soon be time for Leeds to start focussing on next season, when hopefully they can harvest some of that promise they showed on Wednesday night into the reward they deserve.
Featured Image: The Gryphon