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EVA Qualification Round (Leeds Metropolitan University), 2/12/00

After a crack-of-dawn start (complicated slightly by a difficult to start space-cruiser and having to wake two players up by telephone (I will mention no names, but Olivia and Amina - you know who I'm talking about)), 22 bleary-eyed players and 2 bleary-eyed coaches stepped into the Carnegie Sports Hall in Leeds. Expecting the first team to be playing in a pool of five teams and the second team to be playing in a pool of four, it came as some surprise to find that we were now playing a single pool of 7 teams with six round-robin 2 set games. Or not much of a surprise based on the previous year...

Teams;

Cambridge I (Blues): Pascale Garaud (Capt), Veronica Kunze, Steph Bee, Anne Mullin, Sofia Oikonomidou, Amalia Skoufoglou, Jo Coulson, Friederike von Tiesenhausen, Emily Longmore, Pia Sondergeld and Louiza Loizou. Coach: Jon Clarke

Cambridge II: Anna Woo (Capt), Amina Aitsiselmi, Janice Pedersen, Ulli Klossek, Karolina Watras, Helen Whiting, Olivia Gwynn, A. Gulin Yetginer, Jomana Fitree, Joanna Argasinka and Vittoria Feola. Coach: John Lin

Game 1; Blues 2 York 0 (25-21, 25-18)

Still stiff and sleepy from the long drive, the first team took a while to get out of neutral and into any sort of accelerated form of volleyball against the first opponents of the day. With a strong starting 6 of Steph and Veronica setting, Anne and Friederike on the outside and Pia and Emily (switching with Louiza as libero) through the middle, this was a disappointing start. Anne moved into the service position and the Blue machine started to grind into gear. With a solid run of 6 service points and good defensive passing, Anne lead the charge. Good service from Pia and Friederike saw the set out although the absence of strong attacks was noticeable. Sofia replaced Emily at the net for the second and was soon finding the floor with metre drives in the middle to settle the set. Pascale replaced Steph later in the set but was still struggling with her targetting mechanism after the long journey and 3 hours of sleep, finding the base of the net with service and attack, and was brought off for further red bull treatment.

Game 2; Blues 2 Bradford 0 (25-15, 25-15)

Going straight into the second match of the day the Blues were getting more switched on by the minute. Keeping the same setting team and middles that finished the last set, Jo replaced Friederike and partnered Anne on the outside. Service was playing a decisive part in the first set, Bradford able to set up an adequate attack but not coping with serve-receive well. Veronica and Pia had good service runs, the former also chalking up the first two aces of the day. With both Anne and Jo beginning to swing freely in the absence of a block, the second set was dominated by a 9 point service run by Sofia (including 3 aces) and Steph serving the rest of the game to conclusion.

Game 3; Blues 2 Staffordshire 0 (25-14, 25-16)

With a two match break for food the Blues were ready for the inexperienced Staffs team. Pascale, full of stimulants, was literally fizzing for a game by this stage and replaced Veronica as setter. Anne moved to the middle position with Sofia and Amalia replaced Friederike on the outside. Jo started the tempo of the match with a 6 serve run, the easy ball returns from the opposition being punished though outside, middle and back-court. Occasional side-outs were given away through attack errors. Pascale and Steph were finding their attackers with regularity and the points difference indicated the run of play. The second set was not all roses and the Blues probably notched up their most shocking display of the season so far. Pascale and Amalia were setting Louiza and Friederike on the outside and Pia and Anne in the centre. Confusing themselves, the refs and the scorers (who didn't seem to realise that they had to fill in the score sheet) by getting out of rotation and then subsequently getting further out of rotation until both setters were lining up at the net, any hope of concentration was broken and the Staffs team was allowed back into a set that should have gone to zero. Vast amounts of chocolate were required before the lack of blood sugar caused CNS atrophy.

Game 4; Blues 2 Sheffield Hallam 0 (25-19, 25-14)

Thought to possibly be the strongest opposition of the day the Blues lined up with Veronica and Steph feeding Emily and Sofia through the middle and Louiza and Friederike on the outside. From the usual tentative start the team suddenly found what they had come here to do and began to play with style. Giving the opposition respect by beating them with the ball, the passing to the net improved, especially from Pascale in the libero role. The team seemed at ease with the game and began to set up combination attacks and back-court first option attacks. Changing the outside hitters for Anne and Amalia in the second set, the Blues started to really pick the tempo up. The game was pleasing to watch, but not for Hallam who were spectators as cannon after cannon hit their deck. Emily experienced a magical "purple patch" in this set and played her best this season, freely jumping and attacking balls at the net and serving a run of 5 points including her first ace this year.

Game 5; Blues 2 Cambridge II 0 (25-9, 25-10)

Finding their compatriots struggling against some of the stronger opposition the Blues gave the second team a match to test their tactical plays and defence. Lining up Steph and Amalia as setters to Pia and Emily in the centres and Friederike and Jo on the outside, the Blues were pushed to defend some of the intelligent plays from the second team who pushed deep into the first team's court. A good series of serves from Jo and Amalia, however, had the seconds experiencing reception problems and struggling to set up strong attacks. Janice and Olivia had good setting games for the seconds and Karolina was strong in defence at the net, but in the end the strengths of the Blues extra game experience told and the win was comfortable.

Game 6; Blues 2 Luton 0 (25-12, 25-16)

Luton never looked like a particularly mobile team during the day, and although tiredness was starting to tell on the Blues and niggling injuries were taking their toll, this last game was another good display for the spectators to see the dominating force of the team this season. Anne was camped out on the service line and had an unprecedented 12 point service run including 4 aces. Sofia played a major part killing back-court hits and Veronica was taunting the opposition with deep cut reverse hits, followed by delicate tips that had the whole Luton team rolling around in the middle of the court at one point. With Jo replacing Anne and Pia replacing Emily for the second set, the Blues continued in the same vein, Jo pushing an early 5 point lead from the service line (even though a mischievous supporter was trying to break her concentration with flash photography).

A game of note:

Cambridge II 2 Staffordshire 0 (25-18, 26-24)

The second team, having been disappointed with play in earlier games in the day, were improving their team play by leaps and bounds by the latter games. One of the last games of the day saw them pitted against Staffs with the first team there to support the second set. Coach John was using all of the bench to good advantage, Anna leading the team by hitting through the outside with Jomana in the second set. Setters Olivia and Gulin were having excellent games and the team as a whole was working overtime to pick up balls sent over by the Staffordshire side. Helen and Karolina were solid through the middle, Joanna replacing Karolina late in the set and Vittoria taking Jomana's place. Amina provided the strong hitting option in the second set and was also instrumental in cover defence. The team was well motivated for the win and came back from 20-23 down with a run of good service and some well-based safety play.

Several reason to celebrate with champagne and cake at the end of the day; the Blues qualifying for the finals without dropping a set, the second team winning their first victory of the year in the first day playing together, and Steph's 21st and Louiza's 22nd birthdays.

Queens of the court; Of course, Louiza and Steph for both playing so well. And they certainly both deserved to feel a year older after the end of the day.

Random quotes;

Pascale - "You may have to phone and wake me up, I don't know how to set my alarm clock".

Voices in the bus - "Where are we?", "Near Nottingham", "Where's that?".

John at 6am in the morning, 30 minutes late - "This cruiser, hey, it's kinda hard to start"

Olivia on the phone - "Jon, oh hi! ...oh s**t!!! I'll be there in 5 minutes".

Stats for the Blues team:

PositionSets PlayedAttacksKillsKill %AcesBlocksPass %Total Points
Steph BeeS1024521409
Jo CoulsonO51318301.364
Pascale GaraudS/Libero10600102.061
Veronica KunzeS113615426021
Louiza LoizouO/Libero713323301.36
Emily LongmoreM817741311.511
Anne MullinM/O10411844811.8527
Sofia OikonomidouM9472349512.8629
Amalia SkoufoglouO/S710440711.8212
Pia SondergeldM7165311016
Friederike von TiesenhausenO729621101.877
Team Total122528735424133

Report by Jon Clarke

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