|Women's Blues Squad Match Reports
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'Twas a wet and windy afternoon in Cambridge as the Blues members travelling to the away fixture against Birmingham huddled outside Kelsey Kerridge in the dark and rain. Unfortunately this seemed to have set the scene for the whole trip, and indeed the match itself. Stuck in rush hour traffic that inched its way out of Cambridge and then into rush hour traffic in the driving rain around the outskirts of Birmingham, the Blues squad found themselves a frustrating 30 minutes late at the Birmingham Uni venue.
Confronted with a thermally-challenged hall and a bored 1st official who had been twiddling his metaphoric thumbs for half an hour, the team was put through a rapid ten minute warm-up before the first six were called to court. With instructions to try to get concentrated and into the game as quickly as possible, Steph Bee (acting Captain) and Veronica Kunze lined up as setters, Sofia Oikonomidou and Emily Longmore as middle hitters and Anna Woo and Jo Coulson taking the outside positions. Pascale Garaud completed the team as libero replacing Emily. As expected, the Blues found it difficult to settle into the new surroundings and immediately let a 5 point margin drift Birmingham's way. Both teams looked a little uneasy with the first set and gave away points through errors. Some intelligent serving from Veronica and Jo closed the margin slightly and Sofia tested the home team's defence and cover ability, finding that as a team they were much stronger at picking up the ball than attacking with it. Louiza Loizou replaced Anna late in the set, which ended as a war of attrition; Birmingham making fewer unforced errors than the Cambridge side.
Disappointed with the play from the first set the Blues were sent out into the second with renewed vigour (and slightly warmer). Friederike von Tiesenhausen was brought into the attack to replace Jo and the middle players were swapped to allow Sofia to work on blocking out the only strong middle attack that the Birmingham side possessed. Still displaying momentary lapses of concentration and making the setting team work harder than was strictly necessary, the general play lifted at the start of the set. Sofia, Emily and Friederike began to find gaps behind the Birmingham block that weren't being covered. As reverse attack options both Steph and Veronica started to swing and build up a respectable tally of kills. Sofia was able to start to undermine the confidence of the central Birmingham attack by dominating in the block, and in reciprocation could still find spaces around the defence of her attacks.
No changes were made to the team that started the 3rd set. The appearance of a second official started a run of appalling officiating in this set. Both of the referees seemed to believe that trying to remove the net with the follow through hand from a hit was a valid tactic, and the second ref didn't seem to have much of a grasp on rotational play. Coupled with the ineptitude of the scorers to press the right buttons for the scoreboard, the set collapsed into chaos at several points. Not to be deterred by these interruptions, the Blues cruised the set and recorded their most comfortable win margin. Amalia Skoufoglou made her debut as a middle hitter for Emily. Most notable was a run of ace serves from Veronica who seemed to be picking off targets from the baseline.
Looking to finish the match from a 2-1 advantage the Blues came unstuck in the 4th. A run of good serving from the opposition found the serve-receivers struggling, and hence the setting team working overtime to set up any sort of attack. Free-ball plays were not optimised and the ball seemed to keep coming back until the Blues made an error. Changes and time-outs did little to stop the run of play; Jo returned for Friederike, Amalia replaced Louiza on the outside. By the end of the set the coaching team were drawing lots to see who would have to streak across the court to put the Birmingham servers off their stride.
In a mirror play to the match against Oxford, the Blues stormed away to a good lead in the deciding set. Sofia, having switched position with Emily again, was finding no block in the middle and hitting freely into the Birmingham court. However, a number of unforced errors allowed Birmingham back into the game to tie at 13-13. The Blues then had to cling on through the next agonising 10 minutes, saving three match points and squandering one, before finally taking charge from 18-17. Defensive cover was more solid from Pascale, who had a good debut game as libero, and nice serving under pressure was seen from Amalia, Louiza (replacing Emily) and Veronica. The supporters bench was awash with bitten fingernails and clumps of wrenched-out hair.
The game ended in victory but it was extremely hard fought - the Blues making life extremely difficult for themselves at times, and taking home some important lessons to train on. Perhaps it was the case of no showers, getting changed in the hallway, no food and arriving back in Cambridge at 2.30am that served as reward!
Queen of the Court was Veronica Kunze for unrivalled serve prowess.
Quotes of the match; From the second ref after repeatedly being asked who was in error on the rotation fault that he had just called (wrongly), "Your setter. She was moving too fast." From Pascale, in the motorway services on the way home, after viewing the match stats from John, "Are you sure those libero stats are right? And how come both the setters have the best serve-receive?"
|Position||Sets Played||Attacks||Kills||Kill %||Aces||Blocks||Pass %||Total Points|
|Friederike von Tiesenhausen||O||3||13||5||38||1||0||1.43||6|
Report by Jon Clarke
|Pages maintained by Dan Escott||Last updated: October 2000|