By Henry Edwards, Sports Editor and third year History student
Time is needed for Bristol to gel after a well-oiled Essex side came away with victory.
The Bristol women’s volleyball 1s should take notable positives and heart from their recent home loss to Essex. Coming up against a more experienced side, the Bristol women put in a valiant effort, winning the third game in dramatic circumstances.
Coming off a fantastic 3-2 away win at Oxford on 17th October, Bristol were bamboozled in the first two games as Essex raced to an early lead. Lacking in confidence and clearly rattled, the women found themselves 20-1 down at one stage in the second game. However, in a prelude to their dramatic performance in the next game, Bristol won three points in quick succession to gain some momentum and raise some spirits. The score was 2-0 in games to Essex – the match looked all but lost.
How wrong I was. Despite being outplayed in the previous games, the girls remained in high spirits. In a third game that Essex presumed would be a formality, Bristol continually kept pace with the opposition. Clearly Bristol’s tails were up; better blocks, more communication and more dynamic movement at the net saw them keep the score close. Nevertheless, at 17-12 down it looked like Essex would still prevail.
Amazingly, Bristol clawed their way back to 17-17, forcing the Essex coach to call a time-out. The brief interlude did nothing to curb Bristol’s momentum, however, as they refused to give up their lead until the end of the game. Essex were beaten 25-22 in the third game, making it 2 games to 1.
Excited for our 4 home games today! Men's 1st and 2nd are playing at 15.00, women 1st and 2nd at 17.30, come down to the sports hall and cheers us on! See you there @swanseaunivball @cardiffmet and essex uni! @BristolUniSport #WeAreBristol— UOB Volleyball Club (@UOBVolleyball) October 24, 2018
Unfortunately, for all the courage and character shown by Bristol in that particular phase, Essex turned it on for the final game. But in a contest which looked like they would have it all their own way, Essex were visibly rattled by Bristol’s incredible performance in the third game, with the away coach clearly frustrated by his side’s inability to see out the match earlier.
After the match, I spoke to Bristol players Sylvia Betrosian and Natalia Stefanov. They informed me that the difference between the sides could be explained in terms of how well the individual players knew their teammates. As they said, the Essex side trains far more regularly than Bristol, and this in turn allows for a more cohesive chemistry to be developed throughout the team.
Speaking about their performance in the third game, both athletes said: ‘this is us.’ That is the game when momentum was on their side and the squad showed promising signs of increasing internal familiarity. Indeed, in the view of the defeated players, the main avenue to success in such a sport is collective belief: ‘what matters is who wants it more, not as individuals, but as a team.’
What was remarkably evident from watching the Bristol 1s play in the Indoor Sports Hall is that the atmosphere is incredibly friendly, supportive and sociable. After each point, both sets of players gather together as a team to either congratulate or consolidate; the emphasis on team morale is both vital and refreshing to witness. On the sidelines, the substitutes cheer their respective teams on with chants and even dance routines – even the coaches themselves sporadically joined in. There was no bad blood, no berating of officials and no criticism: just pure competition.
With the running track around the outside of the hall, it is very easy to watch and support the side. I was very glad and grateful to spend a Wednesday teatime watching a high standard of volleyball, and I would be lying if I said I knew much about the sport.
Their next home matches are against Bournemouth on 14th November at 13:00, and then against Oxford on 21st November at 17:30. As this Bristol side continues to gel, more victories will undoubtedly be forthcoming in the next weeks.
Photo - Epigram / Henry Edwards
Can this Bristol side bounce back and seal a victory away at Cambridge this wednesday? Let us know your thoughts!