It was a perfect day for Leeds’ volleyball teams on Wednesday afternoon, but unfortunately four wins out of four wasn’t enough to prevent Manchester from winning the Christie Championships for the third year in succession.
Leeds were optimistic going into the volleyball matches, with the women’s team doing the league-cup double this season, with the men’s team securing a solid midtable finish, just behind their Mancunian counterparts. The first match was a close affair in the early stages, with the women from Leeds and Manchester looking fired up for the occasion, with the teams sharing the first eight points. Good defensive work by Leeds helped to shift the momentum in their favour, as they took a five-point lead. Manchester were having to work much harder for each point, as Leeds’ late dominance helped them take the first set 15-7. The second set followed a similar pattern, as communication began to break down within the Manchester team, as Leeds secured the second set 15-7, to take the first match.
Buoyed by the good performance of their female counterparts, the men made a solid start to their match against Manchester, taking an early four point lead which they didn’t relinquish, winning the first set 15-11. Serving was a dominant factor throughout the second set, with both teams hitting many serves long, as they looked to gain the initiative early in each point. In the end, a Manchester infringement gave the second set to Leeds 15-9, giving the home teams two wins out of two.
Leeds could then relax for a couple of hours, as Manchester and Liverpool battled it out. It was a straightforward victory for Liverpool’s women, as Manchester looked slightly fatigued from their early match, with the Merseyside team winning 15-7, 15-9. Liverpool’s men won the league this season, but a shock was on the cards in the first set, as Manchester came from behind to clinch it 17-15. The second set was a similarly close affair, with both sides only separated by a couple of points throughout. Liverpool ultimately took this set 15-13, before winning the decider 15-11, to tie them with Leeds on two victories, going into the final matches.
Superb serving from the women gave Leeds an early lead, as their aggressive tactics helped them dominate the early stages, taking eight of the first nine points. Both teams were playing well at the net, with a few mistakes by the home side late in the set helping Liverpool close the gap slightly, but it wasn’t enough as Leeds took the first set 15-9. The pep talk from Liverpool’s coach in the break clearly helped them, as they took a 6-1 lead at the start of the second set, as they constantly found the corners of the court. Both side’s defences were tested during this set, with Leeds starting to gain the upper hand as the match continued, levelling the scores at 12-12. Two excellent blocks at the net gave Leeds their first match point, but missed the smash to clinch victory by millimetres. Two more match points came and went, before Leeds finally won the second set 19-17.
After agreeing to play each set to twenty-five points, Liverpool looked in a hurry to get the final match over and done with, as their men took a 10-1 lead in the first set. Leeds were constantly under pressure and never gained a foothold in this set, eventually losing it 25-10. A complete change of tactics in the second set seemed to bamboozle Liverpool, with Leeds showing a dominance that never looked likely early on, taking an early six-point lead. This was a set which ebbed and flowed throughout, with Liverpool tying the scores at 21-21, before four consecutive points from the home side took the game to a decider, which would again be played to fifteen due to time constraints. Liverpool must have felt that everything was working against them in the final set, as the net cord helped Leeds on more than one occasion. They then started taking their annoyance out on the officials, as a few 50-50 calls started to go against them, helping Leeds to a 10-3 lead. Although the away side started challenging their anger into some good plays during this set, it was too little, too late, with Leeds clinching the set 15-11, to cap off a fantastic season for Leeds’ valiant volleyball players.
Featured Image: Luke Etheridge