Sheffield Hallam volleyball club had an agonising defeat to start their Super 8 National League programme.
Despite welcoming London 2012 Olympians Dami Bakare and Joel Miller into the squad Sheffield were narrowly beaten in five sets (25-18, 18-25, 21-25, 25-16, 13-15) by London’s Malory Eagles at All Saints on Saturday.
Sheffield’s women’s team also suffered their first loss of the season in the North division against Black Country Redhill Tigers (19-25, 25-22, 23-25, 25-17, 17-19) but responded on Sunday with a convincing victory over Cambridge (25-12, 25-9, 25-17).
For the men Bakare and Miller’s impact from both a mental and practical perspective will doubtless be felt throughout the season.
Sheffield took the first set convincingly, 25-18, but lost momentum through the second and third sets which went to Malory.
With a real game brewing, the crowd started to get quite involved, spurring Sheffield on to take set four 25-16.
However, the fifth and final set of this season opener was always going to be a test for both teams so early on in their campaign.
Malory came into this match (just the second game of their own season) having lost to SGTV Solent 3-2 the previous weekend in their own opening match; they were always going to put up a fight.
Sheffield, however, were no strangers to five-setters last season.
Changing ends at 8-5 down they managed to close the gap to just 14-12 before both teams took their last points of the game, leaving the final set’s score at 15-13.
The Ladies were without head coach Steve McKeown, who was absent all weekend due to illness, but they put in two very creditable performances under the guidance of Assistant Coach Sue Williams.
The first game against newly promoted Tigers was a very close affair with sides trading sets until the final and deciding fifth set.
Sheffield threw away three match points before yielding to Birmingham based Tigers at their second match point.
The following day Cambridge, who just missed out on promotion last season, were the visitors.
A tough match was expected but Sheffield had recovered from their loss against the Tigers and swept away the ‘light blues’ in straight sets.
The results leave Sheffield heading the league with a record of three wins and one defeat.
* Men’s squad: Jim Miller, Alex Jenkins, Dami Bakare, Joel Miller, James Goodwin, Richard Yates, Dave Roberts, Jordan Dalrymple, Stewart Ross, Sonny Chaney and Ryan Heath
* The next match for Sheffield Hallam will be on Saturday October 19 at All Saints against Team Northumbria (4pm).
* Women’s squad: Kate Kelly, Rachel Clayden, Grace Burton, Yvett Talas, Chloe Edwards, Charlie Sprague, Sahime Ayouba Ali and Rheanne Lord.
* Next Match: Saturday October 19 against Nottingham Rockets, All Saints SC (1.45pm).