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BUSA Midlands Conference Match 5 (Cambridge), 25/11/00

Blues 3 Loughborough 2 (25-23, 23-25, 26-24, 17-25, 16-14)

Saturday the 25th November saw the long awaited first match of this season with a full Blues squad in attendance, and it was fitting that it should be against Loughborough, the team that had beaten the Blues in straight sets 3 days earlier. A real test of the abilities of the individual athletes in the squad to gel together in a match-play situation, putting into practice the hours of good practice time from this term. The starting line up included Veronica Kunze and Steph Bee setting, Sofia Oikonomidou and Emily Longmore hitting through the middle (Emily being replaced by Pascale Garaud as libero) and strong option hitters Friederike von Tiesenhausen and Anne Mullin on the outsides. The six squad substitutes were warming the bench and the remainder of the team and reserves were also in support.

In a complete turn-around from the last match the Blues started with strength, having gauged the opposition in the recent meeting. Steph sent in a deep serve that caught the Loughborough team by surprise and they found themselves making the first mistake of the match. The break from tradition was refreshing; the Blues taking the first point of the set! This was followed by a series of side-outs being won by both teams. Both Sofia and Anne made early impressions on the Loughborough defence - having seen our steep-hitting middle in the last game they were prepared (but unable) to defend the hits, but the outside block-destroying talents of Anne were unexpected and made good advantage for the Blues in the first set. At 7-7 Friederike took the ball and served a nice 8 point series to give the Blues a mid-set run and force Loughborough into the first time-out of the match. From this point Cambridge were in command. Veronica was setting precision balls to Friederike on the outside and both she an Steph were able to find spaces to ace into on serve. At the close of the set the Blues had made the first strike and the Loughborough team had dropped their first set of the season.

With an unchanged team out for the second set it became obvious that the opposition were unhappy. The game plan continued and after winning serve the Blues added another 3 points thanks to a serve run from Anne and strong hitting from both Friederike and Veronica, being fed by Steph, on the outside and reverse, with good cover play from Emily at the net. The play swung from side to side over the mid-point of the set, Sofia and Steph winning serve points, the latter finding another ace to add to her tally. Emily had a good solid service run of 5 points in mid-set, frustrating Pascale who was itching to get onto the court in her defensive role. Struggling at 18-11, back-court feeds to their number 5 strong hitter became a winning tactic for the opposition, and a 7 point run, interrupted by a time-out call from Cambridge, saw them back in contention. The end of the set seemed to be going either way and Loughborough eventually scraped through.

The Blues at this stage had the measure of the game and determination was high. Spurred by their compatriots on the sideline, the team came out for the third set with Pia Sondergeld making her Blues debut and replacing Emily as front-court middle. An initial 2 point slip from service was corrected by a 3 point run from Anne, again the passes finding Steph at the net with Veronica making some very nice reverse option plays behind the Loughborough block. At 13-16 down the Blues looked to Friederike to redress the balance, which she did with stainless service deep and low into the Loughborough back-court, finding an ace and edging the team back to a one point lead. Pia was having a good time at the net, using her superior height advantage to disturb the Loughborough middle attack. From somewhere the opposition found some extra energy and optimised on a few Blues cover mistakes to edge back into the game. Amid riotous support from the men's squad and lower team players and friends that were thronging the gallery the Blues were lifted and drove through to the end of the set with mean determination, Anne keeping the ball for the last 3 serves of the game.

In a tactical move to try to clinch the match in the fourth set, and in response to the Loughborough move to try to strong-block Sofia at the net, the team was sent out with a different line-up; Anne replaced Pia as a fast-attack middle option with Louiza taking the outside position. Even though the Blues had used this to advantage in previous matches, the team had trouble adapting initially and set themselves a target to catch as Loughborough moved ahead with two early points runs. The passing started to look a little shaky on serve-receive, and both setter were working hard to feed the big middle offence that had been constructed. The team made some in roads into the opposition lead, with Anne hitting a memorable short play from Steph and Veronica continuing to be a popular points option on the reverse. Sofia was finding some storming shots from back-court but there was too much early damage to contend with and Loughborough took the set.

With support reaching fever pitch the Loughborough management asked the hall to be cleared of non-players. Decamping to the balcony, the Cambridge following still filled the hall with the (now) customary "Allez les Bleus", whilst the few muttered comments from the Loughborough men's squad could now not be heard at all.

Nerves on the Blues bench were jangling. They had been here before against Oxford at home and lost a winning margin in an uncharacteristic display that had disappointed all. But this time the opposition were much better and the level of determination was steely. There was a point to prove here and the team were positive that they were going to prove it. The first set line-up went out to the cheers of the crowd. The first part of the set went side to side, both teams responding to the challenge. Loughborough pushed a 5 point run mid-set, helped by a couple of Blues errors. The team responded by taking the play up a level and found good attack options and solid defence with the libero Pascale. After being 4-8 down at the change, the Blues fought back doggedly, both sides being affected by nerves and letting erors creep in. At 10-14 down the Blues were still determined and Anne took up the ball for service after Sofia had sent a crushing smash into the Loughborough side of the court. Three hard worked points later the Loughborough coach used his last time-out, but this didn't phase Anne and she continued the seemingly impossible task. At 15-14 the Loughborough team made a desperate delaying substitution but to no avail, Anne's serve held and the Loughborough attack pummelled into the net to give Cambridge a historic victory.

Queen's of the court (voted by all at the Volleyball Club party at New Hall later that evening); Anne Mullin and Veronica Kunze.

Quotes of the match; From Dr Rich White, Men's coach and Club President, "You see, I told you that sandbagging tactic would work...". From the Loughborough Women's coach, "You guys deserved the win, it's the first time in five years that Loughborough have lost to another UK University team".

PositionSets PlayedAttacksKillsKill %AcesBlocksPass %Total Points
Steph BeeS523522207
Pascale GaraudLibero3-1.53
Veronica KunzeS5248331110
Louiza LoizouO122100000.862
Emily LongmoreM26233002
Anne MullinM/O5471736202.1219
Sofia OikonomidouM5401025001.7510
Pia SondergeldM10-001
Friederike von TiesenhausenO543716101.338
Team Total518551286158

Report by Jon Clarke

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