What. A. Day.
On the 16th November 10 plucky Volleyball Men and one enigmatic coach took the monumental journey down to Kettering to play in the student cup. Meeting at the ungodly hour of 5am and not returning until 11pm, the troops were to travel in one of two cars, the nippy Golf driven by Captain John ‘Lewis Hamilton’ House, where music choice was superb and leg room limited or in the lumbersome Focus of Chris ‘Nico Rosberg’ Sherfield, where the music was of the Taylor variety and conversation undoubtedly more mature.
Two cars. Two very different experiences. (Nothing to do with Volleyball, but got to set the scene).
First the Golf. The two journeys were stupendous. On the outward journey Jacob ‘Build me up Buttercup’ Webster took to the decks, ably supported by Rob ‘Grandad’ Pennifold, playing a number of outrageous hits from across the 70’s and 80’s, or in Rob’s case – His Childhood. Whilst Captain House did at times call for ‘Drivers Prerogative’ and play some astounding tunes such as the Lord of The Rings soundtrack (#inspiring), the men saw in the morning with no cares in the world. In the back of the car, Justin ‘Ebeneezer Snooze’ Hui and Duncan ‘One Man Party’ McCabe provided just the kind of controlled, seated dancing that they have become synonymous with. Despite shouts of ‘Jesus take the wheel’ when Captain House needed to remove a layer due to the rising heat of the car, a hastily eaten peanut butter sandwich and a couple of very wrong turnings, the men arrived safely and enthused. The return journey meanwhile saw a change on the decks, fresh from his journey North, Mike ‘Motown’ Wilsher provided the car with a wonderful playlist to lift spirits, whilst McCabe and Webster routinely updated the latest NFL scores at the sight of any internet signal. As for Justin, in what came as a shock to nobody, he slept.
Having been viciously chastised for not accounting for the details of the other car in previous reports, this one will be different. Whilst based on speculation and rumour, this is the events of Pippa the Focus. Whilst having the team coach in the car might suggest a serious undertone, the Focus was nothing short of a raucous early morning party. Fuelled by a seemingly endless supply of delicious blueberry muffins baked to perfection by Coach Danielle ‘Saxophone’ Simpson, the car was powered along not just by fuel, but also the dulcet tones of Taylor Swift. Whilst the music was vital, it was overshadowed by a more important conversation; with his impending departure, Tim ‘just have fun’ Ballard clearly felt the need to impart his teachings on the social dating app Tinder. Whilst before they entered the car the inhabitants were mere mortals within the dating game, they emerged new, revitalised ‘Swipe Righters’, their profiles adjusted to pin-point accuracy by Tim, with photos re-ordered, bios updated and matches flooding in. Unfortunately for one Pawel Laskowski, these moments of pure wisdom were missed, as despite adamantly stating he wouldn’t sleep, he was out before the engine was turned on.
I should probably talk about Volleyball now.
Due to the sheer number of games, the matches were only 2 sets long, with the overall points scored coming into account should both sides win one set.
The men’s first game of the day was against Oxford 1sts, a very strong side playing in a higher league. Undeterred, the men took to the court with a vivacious energy that blew away Oxford, taking a 5-0 lead before the Oxford men took a much needed timeout. Such was the arrogance of the Bristol side that Mike Wilsher at one point decided, that contrary to popular belief, hands were overrated, and thus instead blocked the Oxford hit with his face. Whilst Oxford did manage to fight back in the first set, eventually running out with 25-21 win, Bristol were undeterred. Pawel ‘Sugar Free’ Laskowski was superb, playing with the kind of relaxed self-belief that his fans know and love. Giving it their all, Bristol raised the intensity massively and walked all over their Oxford counterparts, taking a 25-14 win. Thus it was that Bristol took a win from their first game.
MOM – Tim Ballard
The break between games saw a number of obviously notable moments. Firstly Mike, supported by his dedicated parents throughout the day, took time to engage in a family meal, assumedly to discuss something Northern, like how gravy really can go with anything. Meanwhile House and Webster took great amusement in the other games occurring around the sports centre, particularly the Cambridge team, whose talisman Frank will long stay in our hearts. The team also had to referee a game, leading to a ‘flamboyance competition’ between line judges; McCabe, sticking with his critically acclaimed rigid style, taking the victory in this case, over Webster’s overtly dramatic lunge style.
The Men’s second game was against Newcastle Under Lyme, a very well drilled team. The Bristol men however were unfazed with Duncan hitting well through opposite, an effort only improved by the fact that his movember effort made him look like a 1970’s soft porn star. With the men keeping up the high intensity that the other teams just couldn’t handle they approached the end of the set with a 23-18 lead. After losing two points, Coach Simpson decided change was needed and decided to remove the emotional hub of the team that is Captain House, a decision that may have slightly annoyed that particular player. However, an immediate apology was offered when super sub Webster emphatically roofed the next Newcastle hit before then running a brilliant middle which gave the men the set at 25-20.
Danielle, I bow to your genius.
The next set was a similar affair, with Webster retaining his place on court and conducting the show like it was a BBC night at the Proms. Newcastle never stood a chance, with Justin ‘Sleeping Beaut-hui’ Hui, picking up every attack they attempted. Despite one exuberant attack resulting in Pawel ‘The Hitman’ Laskowski inadvertently punching Mike in the face, the men took the set 25-22 and thus once again – The Game.
MOM – Jacob Webster
The next break in games saw exhaustion kick in as many players grabbed their 40 winks wherever they could. As ever however, Webster and House took the chance to observe human life, noting with some displeasure the very public Tonsil Tennis played by Oxford’s number 20 ‘Du Plessis’ with what was assumedly his other half. If it wasn’t, fair play to the man. Meanwhile, Father Wilsher (Mikes Dad, not the team Chaplain), there to watch his son’s valiant efforts, came a cropper to a game on the opposing court, as the players ploughed through his chair. In completely untypical Wilsher fashion however he was able to brush it off, as the Bristol players assured a visibly concerned Michael that it was ‘merely a flesh wound’. Despite further drama in the form of Sherfield being almost taken out from atop his referee’s chair and Jacob’s head gracefully nuzzling Danielle’s rear in a moment that I feel needs no further description, the Men were ready for the next game.
The 3rd game was against Nottingham, another team from a higher division, who also were unbeaten so far in the day. Bristol knew the importance of the game and once again gave the game everything they had. Plinio ‘Slumber Buddy’ Zanini was brilliant, spiking the ball with all his body had (which turns out is quite powerful). Chris ‘I’m not writing out your nicknames’ Sherfield took his chance at setter superbly, showing great promise for the rest of the season with the accuracy of a well-trained sniper shooting at a thread being placed through a needle. The men took the first set 25-16. At this point the energy reserves of the men began to waiver and at the start of the second set Nottingham did take the lead. Fighting back excellently through both Pawel and Grandad however Bristol secured the win by getting within 2 points of Nottingham, losing the set 25-23 but once again winning the game.
MOM – Justin Hui
The lack of energy at this point makes the next part of the day a bit of a blur. At some point we reffed a game, something mildly amusing probably happened, so for now I’ll just let your imaginations run away with themselves.
Having won their first three games, Bristol could secure a place in the next round with a final win against Liverpool. Liverpool were probably Bristol’s strongest opponents of the day, with very good hitters. The men however were undaunted and roused themselves one final time to take an early substantial lead in the first set at 19-11. With Pawel singing away merrily to himself ‘Breestol la la la’ and the men coming in for a booming ‘2-3 Bristol’ after every point, confidence was high. However as Liverpool began to find their feet it became apparent the earlier herculean efforts of the men were taking their toll. Small niggles of pain from early in the day became larger and despite their best efforts the men simply had no energy left to drag themselves back into the game, a factor perhaps epitomised by the fact that every team huddle became like taking a small bath due to the back sweat levels of certain players. (I know ewwww gross). Liverpool ran out with the first set at 25-22 and the second set 25-16.
What this meant unfortunately was that Bristol missed out on qualification by a mere 2 points. Whilst this is disappointing I cannot overstate the effort put in by all the men throughout the day. They gave their all in every game against opposition we would have crumbled against in previous years. They played a standard of volleyball that very high level teams would be proud of. They fought back in every set and left Kettering with absolutely nothing left to give.
I speak for both myself and the coach Danielle when I say we are immensely proud of the efforts of each and every player. The men have hundreds of positives to take into the rest of the season and should be more than proud of themselves.
Player of the day, voted for by the team, goes to Tim Ballard for a superb day of setting.
Well done lads. We did Bristol proud.
By John House