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Varsity Match (Kelsey Kerridge, Cambridge) 21/2/99

CUVC 3-0 Oxford University (15-2, 15-10, 15-7)

After just under an hour of play in the 1999 Varsity Match, ex-Oxford player Rudolph Glitz served for the match for Cambridge amidst a cacophony of cheers and foot-stamping from the home crowd. Despite a strong Dark Blue counter-attack, Rudiger Hoyer remained staunch in defence and enabled the ball to be recycled to Dan Escott. The Cambridge captain thundered his spike into the floor, and within seconds the entire Light Blues squad were on court to mob their heroes; it was Cambridge's first victory in this fixture since 1990.

With a crowd of more than one hundred and fifty in attendance, the Light Blues had taken to the court confident of victory. Despite losing the last eight encounters, Cambridge boasted their most powerful squad for years. Running the 6-2 system implemented by coach Maik Leder, CUVC lined up with Garth Smith and Klaus Reinhard setting, captain Dan Escott and Rudiger Hoyer as middle blockers, and Rudolph Glitz and one-time Spanish junior international Roger Martinez as outside hitters. The strength of the line-up could be gauged by the fact that coach Leder was able to leave three Cambridge Blues on the bench.

The home side started poorly, as Reinhard overpassed the first Oxford serve for an easy kill for the Dark Blues. However Cambridge then settled down, siding-out almost at will and winning points behind strong defensive play and some superb transition hitting from Glitz. Two aces from Martinez forced Oxford into a time-out at 10-1, but the momentum was all with Cambridge, and their opponents were allowed only one more point before a stuff block by captain Escott brought the set to an end at a humiliating 15-2.

Whilst Oxford regrouped, Leder sent out the same six for the second set. Strong serving from Roger Martinez enabled Cambridge to jump out to a 3-0 advantage, but thereafter Oxford slowly battled back, clawing back points intermittently amongst a series of side-outs. The Light Blues called time-out at 4-3, but their opponents levelled the score before a run of four points on Reinhard's serve gave Cambridge some breathing space. Oxford battled back once more, but from 10-12 they were powerless as CUVC clinched the set behind three kills in transition from Glitz.

The home crowd now became more animated with the expectation of a long-awaited Cambridge victory, as the usual suspects lined up for the third set. A sloppy start was characterised by a succession of errors from both sides, but things quickly changed as Roger Martinez, who had hitherto been no more than solid, stamped his authority on the match. A run of four digs in defence by the Spaniard set up transition kills to pull Cambridge out to 6-1. Oxford pulled back one point, but then came a series of plays that crushed their spirit entirely.

The first came as Garth Smith attacked through the outside in serve receive. His spike was deflected almost straight down by the Oxford block, who then began to celebrate. Too soon; Hoyer dived full-length to keep the ball off the floor, and two amazing reaction touches from Martinez and Escott sent the ball looping gently back over the net. The Oxford players could only stand and watch in horror as it dropped to the ground between them (the famous 'campfire defence'), and the crowd erupted. Next rally, Smith himself went one-on-one in the block against Oxford's strongest attacker, and stuffed the ball back into his face. Then, after a Dark Blue side-out, Roger Martinez was set on a leftside combination play and hammered a murderous spike which was into the floor seemingly almost as soon as it had left his hand. He followed this with another kill and two aces as Oxford's resolve crumbled. Unable to get the ball past Cambridge's superior block and floor defence, and outgunned by the Light Blues' own attacks, they could do nothing as the home side ran away and hid at 14-2. This distinctly embarrassing scoreline was redeemed slightly as CUVC allowed a run of five points with some slack play, but the question now was when rather than who, and Escott's kill sealed things at 15-7.

Coach Maik Leder was delighted after the match, having seen his side avenge a 3-0 defeat in 1998. Asked why he didn't use Cambridge's unassailable position in the third set to bring on bench players to gain Half Blues, he replied "After last year, I just wanted to make sure".

The setters ran a balanced attack during the match, with Glitz (15 kills), Martinez (13), Hoyer (9) and Escott (7) all posting impressive hitting statistics. Martinez added 4 aces and 11 digs to be MVP.

PlayerPositionSets playedAttacksKillsKill ratioAcesBlocksDigsTotal points
Rudolph Glitz *O324150.62501516
Rudiger Hoyer *M31390.69201810
Klaus Reinhard *S31020.2002064
Roger Martinez *O323130.565401117
Dan Escott *M31270.58313311
Garth Smith *S31240.3330357

* Players awarded Half-Blues

Report by Richard White

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