Volleyball: UEL men land BUCS Premier South title
PUBLISHED: 09:00 04 February 2018
The University of East London’s men’s volleyball team won their first ever BUCS Premier South league title after overturning a two-set deficit to defeat University College London in a five-set thriller at Somers Town Community Sports Centre.
UEL Coach Ian Legrand, whose debut match in charge of the side was against UCL just over a year ago, had two significant absentees in captain Jackson Bantle, who sustained a season-ending injury, and libero Juan Varona, with a broken-foot.
But Legrand was pleased with his deputising players for stepping up amd said: “It does not help when your libero breaks his foot, although he tells me he is going to be ready to play next week, so we will see.
“We are a small group and to get injuries is a fact of life, and it is tough when it is players with that ability, but the other guys stepped up and did the job, so it proves something.”
Despite taking command of the first set 25-18, the visitors dropped two consecutive sets: 25-20 and 25-22, before edging a fourth set 25-22, to send the tie into a deciding fifth, which they ultimately won 12-15.
There were occasions during the match, when it looked as though another league title was going to slip from UEL’s grasp, but having come from two sets down to win the game, Andrew Whitt believed the togetherness of the side had an impact.
“I thought we played as a unit, we really had each other’s backs out there and when the going got tough, we really got together as a team, put all of our efforts together and something great came out of it,” he said.
UCL initially started the fifth set in the ascendancy and at one stage led by four points at 6-2, but just as the hosts looked to extend their lead and dash UEL’s title hopes, Austen Lovett and Whitt came to UEL’s rescue, with crucial spikes at the net to level the scores at 7-7.
UEL never looked back after that and Legrand reiterated the importance of players putting in individual shifts, being particularly delighted with Whitt’s inspirational exhibition.
He added: “The satisfying thing is that when the pressure was really on us in the fifth set, we had individuals turn in some really big performances. Some of the stuff Andrew Whitt did to keep us in the game was outstanding.”
UEL’s final league match of the season sees them travel to last season’s Premier South champions Essex University, ho they defeated in five sets in the reverse fixture at SportsDock.
When asked how the side will approach the contest, John Whitman said: “We just have to play with the same intensity and fire and clean up some things in practice, which we will. There are no worries about it next week.”
The match against Essex takes place on February 7 at the University of Essex Sports Centre and will be broadcasted live on The University of Essex’s YouTube channel at 7pm.