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Another comfortable victory for Cambridge University Men's volleyball club saw them rise to 5-1 in the BUSA Midlands Conference, all but assuring themselves of at least a second-place finish in the group stages.
The team was weakened somewhat by the loss of reserve setter John Lin, spending the Term studying in his native America, whilst outside hitters Jean Jacquet and Marko Jauhiainen had both been struck down by 'flu and Quentin Ramasse was recovering from tendonitis in the ankle. Nevertheless, coach Dr Richard White was able to field a strong starting six of Denis Zuev setting, Andreas Malm at opposite, Dan Escott and Steffen Krusch as middle blockers and Richard Weinberg and Quentin Ramasse as outside hitters. Club captain Huw Vater filled out the side as libero.
Strong serving by Zuev and Ramasse forced Warwick into early hitting errors, and the away side were forced into a time-out with the Light Blues holding an 11-5 advantage. In a one-sided set, Cambridge were able to side-out almost at will, whilst accumulating points on their own services, and ran away to 23-11 before a run of hitting errors allowed Warwick to bring some respectability to the scoreline. A Cambridge time-out settled matters, however, and upon resumption a perfect pass from Quentin Ramasse was converted emphatically into a line kill by Andreas Malm to give the home side a 25-16 decision.
The same side started set two, and Cambridge again secured an early lead behind strong serving, this time from Malm. Jean Jacquet came on for Rich Weinberg, whilst Marko Jauhiainen also saw court time in place of opposite hitter Malm in this set. Warwick put up a spirited fight, particularly in defence, and held their own in a series of long rallies. However Cambridge were always too strong, with the Zuev/Escott combination being particularly effective. Indeed, Dan Escott seemed to be taking the definition of a 'kill' a little too literally in this set, inflicting three 'six packs' on the unfortunate Warwick defensive unit as his power spikes rebounded from heads and shoulders. The Light Blues took the set 25-20.
With his side coasting, coach White started with Jacquet and Jauhiainen as outside hitters in set three, and gave a debut to 6'4" middle blocker Soren Koeppe. Cambridge were unsettled early on by some unusual misinterpretations of the libero rules by the referees, and after Warwick had battled to win a particularly hard-fought rally, White called time-out at 5-8. The away side continued to play with genuine determination, however, and despite a further Cambridge time-out, they looked favourites to take the set at 23-19. Now the Light Blues needed to be at their best, and they clawed their way back into the game with heroic defence combined with some excellent transition hitting. The match ended as a control block from Dan Escott was picked up by Jacquet, with Escott on hand to bounce down Zuev's quick set in transition to seal matters at 26-24.
After the match, coach Dr Richard White commented "We never really hit top gear today, but did just enough to secure the victory. Warwick played with great spirit, more so than ourselves, and certainly put on a much better display than when we played them at the start of the season. On the Cambridge side, I was very happy to see Quentin Ramasse have a good game coming back from injury, and Dan Escott and Marko Jauhiainen were practically unstoppable all match long. Soren Koeppe also showed plenty of promise and will get plenty of court time in the upcoming tournaments. We'll need to play better than this to defeat the top teams, but for a first post-holiday fixture I'm reasonably content."
Warwick had no answer to Dan Escott, who racked up 17 kills and 5 blocks to extend his MVP monopoly, but Marko Jauhiainen was also in top form as he passed at 2.60 and made 8 kills on only 13 swings. Huw Vater was solid as ever, adding 12 digs to another impressive passing statistic.
Cambridge play their penultimate BUSA pool match next Saturday 3rd February against Nottingham University.
Report by Richard White
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