On the 23rd November the Men’s 1sts entertained LSE 1sts at Tyndall Avenue Sports Centre. The game was the first round of the BUCS trophy, a tournament run between all teams in Division 1 that ironically has no trophy to lift at the end. But hey, who doesn’t love a good plaque?
Captain, Talisman and average height male Christopher ‘swine flu’ Sherfield had set an assembly time of 12.45 for the troops. Given his militant time keeping of years gone by, confusion reigned when Sherfield was nowhere to be seen at 12.46. With no logical explanation to this once in a lifetime event plans were quickly put in place to make the necessary bereavement calls to appropriate family members. Luckily for the team, the man himself eventually appeared, a whole 2 minutes late, causing much wailing and gnashing of teeth in indignation.
This was however not the only problem to plague the Men. With a new initiative to punish every single error at training with an array of burpees and press ups (or push ups if you’re that way inclined), players could be seen wincing and grumbling at every small movement. For those of us that aren’t constantly on that #freeleticshype or able to get away with the now patented Craig Tavares-McKoy ‘Chicken Dipper’, this new punishment regime had taken its toll.
Fighting through this immense wall of mild discomfort and minor annoyance the Men somehow warmed up and were ready to go.
Like Michael Wilsher’s talking speed, the Men began painfully slowly. Even with Craig’s routine shank of the first serve, the Men could not get a grip on the game, going an excruciating 15-3 down. The express train to ‘unforced error City’ was boarded with great aplomb by each member of the team. You’d think 81 square metres of court would be easier to hit. To their credit, LSE blocked very well, giving the Men a new challenge that took time to adjust to. Fighting back the Men did make the set respectable at 25-18, but ultimately, like a plum tree in winter, it was fruitless.
Shellshocked from the first set, the Men knew that they had to put it behind them and get on positively with the next set. Which they did, taking an early lead and putting much more pressure on the LSE players. With the score at 23-20 confidence was high. Perhaps too high. Definitely too high. A few costly errors and LSE took the set 25-23.
Like Fergus, hungover after a night out, the Men desperately searched for some positives in the break between sets. They knew they had to pull something out of their behinds to get ahead in the game. Listening to coach Tim ‘a double helping of Salad please’ Clifford the Men decided enough was enough. Cross blocking and targeted serving was the order. With shouts of ‘5 sets it is’, ‘all the way boys’, ‘someone get me a banana’ and ‘Craig try hitting line for once’ echoing around the hall, the men were ready. One man rose to the fore in this set. Hitting powerfully, passing like Pirlo at Euro 2012 and blocking with the efficiency of Virgin Media broadband, Paolo ‘You are all sh*t’ Abrami was having a stormer. It seemed like no man could stop him. In a move of desperation LSE avoided him completely, raining serves down on poor old Craig, leading to 3 shanked passes in a row. Seeing such a tactical move, coach Tim revealed his masterstroke. Rather than remove Craig from the court, Tim knew Paolo had to go. Subbing him off most players were initially confused, but as Bristol stormed the next 4 points it became clear that the fine line between insanity and genius had not been crossed.
Roused by the ever growing crowd, the Men fought LSE all the way, saving 2 match points along the way, including one hit from John ‘Stokesy’ House that he would definitely not have gone for as much had he known it was match point. Ballsy. With their own set point, Craig saw a ball sailing out that no one else did, winning Bristol the set.
At this point we must stop to give mention to a moment of pure gold that occurred on court. Overjoyed with the set victory, John ‘Gun hand’ House delivered a high five to Fergus ‘meaty palm’ Shaw to end all high fives. Drawing on the 5 times he’s ever actually been to the gym, John absolutely launched his hand at Fergus. The connection was perfect, the noise was ecstatic, the result was a nasty swelling and purple mark on Shaw’s palm. Worth it.
Brimming with confidence the Men smashed through the fourth set. Like a bag of spinach that’s been open for over 6 days, LSE wilted. Powered by some energy drinks delivered by Oscar ‘5 weeks and counting’ Parsley and delightful display of hitting from Craig saw Bristol take the fourth set with ease at 25-16.
Into the final set, the Men knew it was a matter of time. Michael ‘Cardiff night out?’ Wilsher went on an outrageous run of blocks, ably assisted by Chris Sherfield, who’s ability to still get a bit of his hands over the net, despite being old and small, is remarkable. Matt ‘Matt Birch’ Birch even joined the party, scoring points with the kind of horrendous enthusiasm and aggression that Bournemouth have come to so fear. Bristol ran out 15-8 winners.
So a 3-2 win was secured in typical dramatic fashion. On to the next round of the trophy.
Our thanks to the supporters and the refs. Top people.
Man of the Match: Paolo Abrami
Written by: John House