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BUSA Last 16 KO Round (Cambridge), 28/2/01

Blues 3-0 Crewe and Alsager (26-24, 25-17, 25-17)

In what has already been a record-breaking season for the Club, Cambridge University Men's volleyball team broke new ground yesterday by becoming the first Cambridge team ever to qualify for both EVA and BUSA Finals in the same season. The Blues reached the BUSA tournament by defeating Crewe & Alsager University in straight sets at Linton Village College.

After a late alteration in the fixture list for the last sixteen by BUSA, Blues coaches Dr Richard White and Dr Jon Clarke had frantically battled to find a venue, officials and available players in order to stage the match on the Wednesday. After much bartering with local teams, using up of favours, and almost a day and a half of solid telephoning and emailing, this was finally achieved, and the Blues travelled out to Linton in their convoy of taxis to face Crewe & Alsager, of whom they knew precisely nothing.

Cambridge lined up with Denis Zuev setting, Andreas Malm at opposite, Dan Escott and Soren Koeppe as middle blockers, Jean Jacquet and Rich Weinberg as outside hitters and Huw Vater as libero. Crewe started the better of the two sides, with some intelligent distribution from their setter getting the best of their two main hitters. The Blues looked haunted by their poor performance at the EVA Finals, as the passing unit was again suspect. Coach White called time-out at 10-12, but Crewe continued to play with greater determination and blocked superbly. Jean-Rene Huynh was brought in for Weinberg, but it was the away side who had the first chances to take the set at 24-21. A kill from Koeppe gave Cambridge the side-out, and the Blues again showed great resolve under pressure as a series of testing serves from Andreas Malm set up transition opportunities for Huynh to apply the finishing touch. Four successive points gave the home side the set, somewhat fortuitously, 26-24.

Huynh began game two in place of Weinberg, and the Blues - perhaps less tense after stealing the first set - made a much more confident beginning. Some improved passing allowed setter Zuev to deploy his middle attack more frequently, with Escott and Koeppe proving almost unstoppable. The outside hitters joined in, as Cambridge established a strong side-out rhythm, and Jean Jacquet earned the rare distinction of achieving a 'twelve-pack' as his spike on a combination play hit a Crewe player in the chest and dumped him onto his backside. With Crewe looking as though they were still struggling to shake off the disappointment of dropping set one, the Blues were much more comfortable in taking a 25-17 decision.

Quentin Ramasse started game three in place of Jacquet, but the pattern of play was unchanged. Cambridge were able to side-out without difficulty, and added points through some strong blocking from Malm and Koeppe and outstanding transition hitting from Jean-Rene Huynh. Max Bautin came on in place of Malm, and made an immediate impression with a superb diving save in defence, followed by a convincing kill of a Crewe overpass. The final play was a thunderous attack through the middle from Escott as the Blues booked their place in the Finals with a 25-17 victory.

Coach Richard White was happy with the result. "Getting through to the Finals is a fine achievement by the squad. It's been a long road - nine matches in total - and we've had a lot of bad luck with injuries, so today's result was very pleasing. Crewe played very well in the first set, and we didn't; in the end we were quite fortunate to steal it, and I think this really disheartened Crewe. Certainly they did not play at anything like the same level in sets two and three. Our middle attack was pretty fearsome today, as ever, but the outside hitting was also fairly destructive. The team is now really excited at the prospect of playing at the National Finals; with the improved draw structure this year, the eight teams there are going to be the best eight in the country, so there will be no easy games. It's going to be a great tournament, and we're all going to relish the challenge."

In a balanced offense, Escott (17), Koeppe (12), Malm (12) and Huynh (10) all reached double figures. Koeppe and Malm were the outstanding blockers with four blocks apiece.

Cambridge's season - which would have been over had they lost to Crewe - will hopefully now end with a bang and not a whimper at the BUSA Finals in Loughborough on 9th, 10th and 11th March. The Blues will look to match the best-ever 3rd place finish achieved by the 1998-9 side, of which middle blocker Dan Escott and coach Richard White are veterans (full report). Cambridge women must defeat Manchester to join their male counterparts, which would be yet another first for the Club.

PositionSets PlayedAttacksKillsKill %AcesBlocksTotal Points
Max BautinU1111001
Dan EscottM31814781217
Jean-Rene HuynhO315960110
Jean JacquetO3745715
Soren KoeppeM39889412
Andreas MalmU3116552412
Quentin RamasseO241251
Huw VaterLibero3-
Richard WeinbergO1425013
Denis ZuevS3215012
Team Total371466541363

Report by Richard White

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