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A Jekyll-and-Hyde performance from Cambridge saw them eventually snatch a final set victory over a spirited Nottingham side on Wednesday. The match was the Light Blues' third consecutive win in Tier 1 of the BUSA Midlands Conference, and already virtually assures them of a place in the last sixteen knockout round.
Arriving in time to see Nottingham's ladies team narrowly lose in five sets to Birmingham, the Blues lined up with Dennis Zuev setting, Andreas Malm at opposite, Richard Weinberg and Quentin Ramasse as outside hitters, and Dan Escott and Steffen Krusch as middle blockers. Captain Huw Vater completed the team as libero. Regular starter Jean Jacquet missed the match due to work commitments.
Cambridge began sloppily, making a host of passing and hitting errors that were to characterise the darker side of their performance throughout the match. Coach Dr Richard White called time-outs at 0-4 and 7-15, and it was only after the second of these that the Light Blues showed something approaching decent form, levelling at 18-18 behind a run of intelligent serves from Andreas Malm. However the errors quickly returned, and a jubilant Nottingham side took the set 25-21.
The same six took to the court for set two, but the loss of their first set of the season seemed to buoy the Light Blues. A much more focussed display in reception and defence, coupled to some fearsome quick attacks from Dan Escott, never let Nottingham into the game as Cambridge breezed to a 25-15 victory.
Again, however, the Light Blues appeared to relax in set three, and the errors of the first set returned once more. Daniel Mesnard replaced Andreas Malm, and Marko Jauhiainen debuted in place of Quentin Ramasse. However too many attacks found the net or sailed out of bounds and, although Cambridge battled back from 10-16 to level at 23 and 24, their attempts to force victory were foiled on both occasions by service errors. Nottingham edged a 26-24 decision.
With Jauhiainen starting in place of Ramasse for set four, Cambridge again metamorphosed from their lacklustre set three incarnation into a clinically efficient unit, defending stoutly and attacking with venom. An early 9-3 advantage was never relinquished as the Blues romped home 25-15 to force a tiebreak set.
With the Nottingham contingent providing vociferous support, Cambridge started badly yet again, forcing coach White into a time-out at 3-5. However a crucial run of serves from Malm, who targetted Nottingham's weaker passers with clinical accuracy, allowed the Blues to switch sides with an 8-7 lead. Cambridge then turned on the style, with Dan Escott inflicting a 'six-pack' with a bullet spike into the head of one Nottingham player, and Marko Jauhiainen thumping another into the chest of his unfortunate opposite number. A Nottingham time-out did not upset Cambridge as they wrapped up the set and match 15-11.
Coach Dr Richard White reflected after the match: "I think the difference between this performance and the Oxford game was mental focus. On Saturday, the whole team was motivated and gave their all in every point. When we managed that today, in sets two and four, we won easily. In the other sets, we simply made too many errors. Nottingham defended well and had a couple of dangerous hitters, but the fate of the game was always in our own hands. I'm actually quite pleased that we've had to come through a tough five-setter so early in the season, since the team needs to practise performing under real pressure. A match like this also tells me a lot more about the team than an easy win such as those against Oxford and Warwick - Nottingham exposed a few weaknesses today, and now we can go back and work on them in preparation for Loughborough."
Dan Escott again took the MVP award with 20 points (seven blocks), with Steffen Krusch posting 15 points. In a generally weak passing display, outside Richard Weinberg shone, receiving at 2.50 for the match. Cambridge now have a three week break before their next game, a home match against Loughborough on Saturday 25th November which promises to be their toughest test of the season so far.
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Report by Richard White
|Pages maintained by Dan Escott||Last updated: October 2000|