Horndean had to conjure up all the tricks in the book to register their first win of the National League season – a hard-fought 3-2 triumph over hosts Bristol.
The match, played at Bristol’s Abbeywood Community School, produced fireworks from both teams.
Horndean and Bristol were flexing their muscles for glory following opening division two defeats at the hands of Brentwood Boswells Academy and City of Bristol respectively.
But it was the visitors who stormed out of the blocks and had their noses in front by the time the two mandatory time outs were called by the referees.
But they later surrendered a five-point lead after failing to tame Bristol’s powerful jump serves and lost the first set 27-25.
The Deans had travelled with only six starting players – and had 15-year-old libero Harry Stokes as the only sole bench player.
But the visitors were determined to make their trip worthwhile and, after taking charge of the second set, they saw it out to triumph 25-19.
Horndean were then flawless in the third set.
They exerted their authority right from the start, putting Bristol under pressure with floating serves from Festus Nfor and new signing Stephen Metherell.
‘We were majestic in the third set, we made few mistakes and everybody seemed lively and alert,’ said skipper Stuart McCulley.
‘Our middle players, like Hans Willard, got into the game and we had a lot of attacking options. It was a joy.’
Horndean took the set 25-16 but their character was quickly tested again when Bristol fought back to level at two sets apiece with a 29-27 win in the fourth.
Horndean had to rely on their experienced players in the fifth-set decider.
And led by man-of-the-match Maciej Kubis, they put up a disciplined performance to ensure a 15-12 victory.
‘We played as a team and fought for each other when in trouble,’ said Kubis.
‘It was good to see every player pulling together.
‘This is a game we should normally have won in straight sets – but also one we could easily have lost.’
Deans player-coach Nasser Ssemuwemba added: ‘The players showed character to bounce back after a bad weekend in Brentwood.’
Horndean host Wessex M2 at the Mountbatten Centre on Saturday.