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BUSA Midlands Conference Match 4 (Loughborough), 22/11/00

Blues 0 Loughborough 3 (20-25, 12-25, 25-27)

Loughborough students, always regarded as one of the strongest University women's teams in recent years with established National League presence, provided the Blues with a challenging away fixture in this round of the BUSA competition. With a reduced travelling squad of eight players (suggested as a deliberate "sandbagging" tactic by CUVC President Dr. Richard White) due to injury and unavailability, the first six lined up with Sofia Oikonomidou and Emily Longmore taking the middle roles (Emily being replaced by the libero skills of Louiza Loizou in back-court), Friederike v. Tiesenhausen and Amalia Skoufoglou on the outside and Steph Bee and Pascale Garaud (Capt.) in the setter positions. Alison Bond completed the squad on the bench for the first set.

Having taken a few moments in the warm-up to get used to the coloured match balls that Loughborough seem to like, the Blues got off to an apprehensive start. During the pre-match talk the team had been asked to start with power and risk, but instead seemed to be sounding out the opposition that they had heard so much about. There was no dominating power service to defend and the serve-receive at the outset was good, Sofia and Friederike consistently finding Steph's fingers at the net with accuracy. However, the Blues did not seem to be able to set up any strong attacking option and Loughborough easily picked up the returns and sent them back with interest, resulting in an immediate seven point slide in their favour. From this initial deficit the Blues were always fighting to get the set back into their grasp. Good cover play in the second half of the set saw the Blues gain a couple of points runs with Friederike targeting the undefended line and Emily and Amalia getting good block defence working. This renewed vigour was certainly more encouraging; the Blues coming back from 12-19 down to be in contention again at 19-20 through a combination of increased confidence and some wild Loughborough hitting errors. Despite the efforts of the team to push ahead and finish the set the last few points drifted the way of the home team.

Having made the measure of the opposition in the first set it was clear that this was the first team that the Blues have met this season that could play a higher level of volleyball. The experience amidst the Loughborough ranks was evident - cleverly positioned balls behind the opponents front line cover by Sofia, Steph and Amalia made points, but second attempts at the same plays found a waiting defence player and allowed the Loughborough team to set up a range of combination plays that the Blues found difficult to defend. The Loughborough team were also quite effective in closing down hard attack options from Sofia by testing the serve-receive team of Louiza, Friederike and Amalia, resulting in Steph and Pascale having to work overtime off the net. However, against the first strong hitters of the season, the blocking skills of Emily and Amalia in particular were holding up well and Louiza was finding herself positioned well for transition-play passes. Alison was brought into the side halfway through the second set in place of Emily, to perform her debut appearance for the Blues this season. This was a response to a mid-set collapse by the Cambridge side that had spanned a time-out and resulted in a six point advantage to Loughborough. The team seemed to be boosted by the change and fought well to the end of the set, even when confused by the opponents tactic of substituting a second No. 11 player onto the court (subject to a post-match complaint that the referee knew about this but hadn't informed the Cambridge side). Also of note in this set was the one-person, second-tempo hitting combination that Pascale had developed to a fine art and was revealed for the first time as a specialist attack. Due to possible copyright infringement I cannot disclose details here, but I'm sure the Blues Captain will be happy to explain directly to anybody seeking clarification.

The team remained unchanged for the third. Service error was again playing it's ugly part in the first section of the set, the Blues unable to maximise on hard-won side-out points. Alison was having a good game at the net, closing the block well and calling for each pass that made its way to the setter. Service improved as the set progressed and Sofia found space to hit the hardest attack of the match to the feet of the waiting opposition player. In the last time-out of the set the Blues trailed 14-21. With nothing to lose the demand was for good concentration, good passing and hard attacks. The team replied to the demand with composure on court and clawed their way back to 24-24, Friederike having a good spell of play hitting the outside line and Steph starting to hit with power through the reverse. The Loughborough team suddenly didn't look invincible any more and were forced to time-out. The last few points of the set were hard-fought and could have gone either way, both sides rescuing set points. Eventually the Blues capitulated at 25-27.

A tough game but good experience for the Blues team. None of the players were disappointed with their performances, and justifiably so; the play level has certainly increased since the start of term and against a weaker opposition today's team would have had no difficulties.

Queen of the court was Friederike von Tiesenhausen for good overall gameplay.

Quote of the match; the Loughborough Men's Team Captain (as second official), when told by Steph that the Loughborough setter was out of rotation with their number 11, replied, "Which number 11?".

PositionSets PlayedAttacksKillsKill %AcesBlocksPass %Total Points
Steph BeeS35240013
Alison BondM242500012
Pascale GaraudS34125001.291
Louiza LoizouLibero3-1.56
Emily LongmoreM25120023
Sofia OikonomidouM314750021.759
Amalia SkoufoglouS39333021.485
Friederike von TiesenhausenO3154270125
Team Total35620360828

Report by Jon Clarke

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