On 14th October 14 intrepid Men’s 1st teamers journeyed to Abbeywood School (Immediate shout out to Mike ‘dirty Mike’ Wilsher for leading us on a 22-stop bus journey rather than an equivalent 4-stop train journey which cost half as much #greattreasuring) in the northern realm of Filton to lay siege to the stationed garrison in the form of Bristol volleyball club, a team with plenty of powerful hitters and a solid all-round game. A good final test then, before the boys lock horns with Bath in their BUCS opener on the 21st.
Aidan ‘Star-spangled banter’ McKay again brought the pain and pleasure in equal measure for the warm up, pumping beats out of his speaker filthier than a Ukrainian brothel, with drops bigger than Felix Baumgartner’s famous leap of faith – which by the way happened on this date 3 YEARS AGO. Can you believe that? 3 WHOLE YEARS. Just think, many of you won’t have even done your GCSEs when that happened. God I feel old. After a sprinkle of pepper the team were prepared for the searing heat of battle.
The pressure that accompanied this absolutely gargantuan, most pivotal friendly match clearly got to our opponents, as they started the first set with a cacophony of errors courtesy of some aggressive serving from Felipe ‘Capri King’ Galindo Sanchez and Rob ‘Sweaty Betty’ Pennifold. UoB raced away to a 9-2 lead; however as the set progressed the gap gradually closed as the home team settled into their game, in the process laying down some ferocious serves and spikes that were largely greeted with shanked passes. Even inexplicably perennially good passer Justin ‘Gotta catch ‘em all’ Hui couldn’t get his on target. Much volleyball later – some good (alright), some bad (abysmal) – the guests found themselves at 21-23 and with some momentum on serve, but a couple of errors in quick succession clinched the set for BVC 25-23.
The battle was lost but the war had just begun, and Coach Matteo saw vengeance in the eyes of his starting six. He made only three changes, slotting in Aidan ‘where’s he from again?’ McKay at libero, and outsides TS ‘Nickname TBD’ Kim and Ron ‘Oscar Parsley’ Jeremy, making his first appearance for the club in a dramatic career switch from the pornographic film industry (wait till you see him). The set couldn’t have started more differently to the first, with a lack of communication between the new outsides on serve receive hanging poor Fergus ‘Headbandit’ Shaw out to dry at the back of the court. This meant that BVC won the first 7 points of the set, a lead the guests were never able to dent. One bright spot in the set however was the play of Jacob ‘carry me home’ Webster, who in a pleasant surprise to the squad had clearly managed to escape the residual grump that usually hangs over him like a lingering reminder that your country has been knocked out of the world cup, or the dull heartache that forever follows you after hearing the crushing news of unrequited love – Credit to you, sir. Thanks largely to Jacob, the men clawed their way back into the set to finish with a respectable 15 points, every player giving serious cause for optimism for the coming season.
With the match already lost, Matteo saw fit to unleash the best talent the club has to offer to send a message that they weren’t going down without a fight. Players such as Jonny ‘Rear Admiral’ Childs and Guinness world record holder for world’s most softly spoken man Craig ‘Aretha Franklin’ Tavares-McKoy entered the fray. The effects were felt immediately in the passing game, and, powered by the ever-secure spiking from Mr Consistent Chris ‘French onion’ Sherfield – who did ‘get blokt m8’ once I hasten to add – The team played their best volleyball yet. All despite a considerable distraction in the form of one opponent’s shorts, rather economical in length, that due to their – to put it mildly – ‘fitted’ style, left absolutely nothing to the imagination. Quite frightening. It was a close run contest throughout that due to intimidating blocking from both sides had ‘more tips than a well-waited restaurant’ (House, J. UOBVolleyball. Twitter. 1st edition, 2015.). Of course no game Bristol plays would be complete without a butterfingers moment, and once again Rob ‘sweaty Betty’ Pennifold stepped up to the plate. Déjà vu was felt by all as another near-perfect pass slipped through his hands and hit his sweat-sodden chest, the impact causing the surrounding players – not for the first time, I’m sure – to be lightly doused in his salty bodily fluid. The men dug deep to soldier on through this mild inconvenience and soon reached 24 all, a score line that has all too often been the harbinger of impending pain for club veterans. In somewhat anticlimactic fashion though the students stepped on the gas and won 2 quick points to ensure they finished the fixture going down in a blaze of glory. A happy note to end on. A perfect cadence, you might say. Or actually, given the overall performance, maybe just plagal. Probably just plagal.
Written by: Fergus Shaw